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Students in the forefront

Posted by on Feb 24, 2019 in Blog, Law and Ethics, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments


Students who can name one of the five freedoms in the First Amendment earn an appropriate t-shirt from Mary Beth and John Tinker. Represented on stage were Florida, Texas and Iowa. (photo by Candace Bowen)

by Candace Bowen  Third in a series
When anyone tells Mary Beth Tinker that students are the future, she firmly but politely corrects them: “No, they’re the present.”

If the students participating in the #Tinkerversary events this week are typical – and it would seem they are –, the present is in good hands.

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Now things are different in Des Moines

Posted by on Feb 21, 2019 in Blog, Law and Ethics, News, Scholastic Journalism | 0 comments


John Tinker signs a black armband for two Callanan Middle School students. They told he and Mary Beth about causes that mattered to them. (photo by Candace Bowen)

by Candace Bowen Second in a series

Des Moines schools, how you have changed since early winter 1965.

That’s when a high school principal got wind of a pending Vietnam War protest – reportedly when his school’s newspaper adviser showed him a story about it for the next issue. He and his fellow principals decided suspensions would be the punishment for anyone who did this.

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Decision-making for most student broadcasts
protected same as print, online QT24

Posted by on Oct 25, 2017 in Blog, Broadcast, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments


As more schools expand their journalism programs to include broadcast and radio, it should be clear how Tinker and Hazelwood positively or negatively affect broadcast programs.

The answer is: it depends.

If they go out over the broadcast airways, Federal Communications Commission regulations apply.

If not, they are not subject to the broadcast-only regulations.

But most student radio and television stations are not truly “broadcast.” They don’t go out over the airwaves but are transmitted via the Internet or a cable or closed circuit system.

In that case, their status is the same as print and online publications.

And, if they are public forums for student expression … check out Quick Tip24, below.


Quick Tips: Broadcast programs and media law

Question: How does media law apply to student television and radio programs?

Key points/action

Student television and radio journalists and their advisers frequently ask how the laws apply to them?  Do they have the same free press rights as other student journalists? Are they subject to additional restrictions because of the medium in which they produce content?

The short answers: yes and no.

Stance: Radio and television programming that goes out over the broadcast airwaves via a license from the federal government is subject to additional restrictions on content.

Regulations imposed by the Federal Communications Commission on broadcast stations include limitations on the airing of “indecent” content and requirements that the station air content that serves the public interest.

But most student radio and television stations are not truly “broadcast.” They don’t go out over the airwaves but are transmitted via the Internet or a cable or closed circuit system.


Because these types of stations are not licensed by the FCC, they are not subject to the broadcast-only regulations.

For all these student television and radio programs, the rules that apply to your content are the same that apply to student newspapers, magazines, yearbooks and websites.

The key Supreme Court decisions are Tinker v. Des Moines and Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier. Students at public schools are entitled to protections from censorship based on the First Amendment.

Those protections are stronger if the program is operating as a designated public forum where students have been given the authority to make content decisions.

Related: These points and other decisions about mission statement, forum status and editorial policy should be part of a Foundations Package  that protects journalistically responsible student expression.


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Support the Tinker Tour

Posted by on Apr 30, 2013 in Blog, Hazelwood, Law and Ethics, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching, Uncategorized | 0 comments


Mary Beth Tinker addresses student and advisers at the Ohio Scholastic Media Association awards banquet April 5. (photo by Melinda Yoho)

Individuals and groups still have 31 days to help ensure The Tinker Tour: The Power of an Armband happens next fall. The “Tinker Tour” is a bus trip across the country to promote youth voices, free speech and a free press.

The tour’s goal, according to Mary Beth Tinker, tour organizer and plaintiff in the landmark Tinker v DesMoines U. S. Supreme Court decision, is to ” bring real-life civics lessons to schools and communities through my story and those of other young people.”

Every journalism student in the country has a real stake in seeing this tour happen, even to the point of bring it to their schools or home towns.

hazelwoodcolorTinker and co-organizer Mike Hiestand, who assisted countless media students and advisers as a consulting attorney for the Student Press Law Center,  hope to start the tour on Constitution Day next fall and spend three to six months touring, depending on funding.

Pledging your financial support within the next 31 days will enable your funds to be matched by StartSomeGood, a crowdsourcing fundraiser.

Find out about the Tinker Tour here.

To donate to the Tinker Tour, go here.

As Mary Beth says in her appeal for support, “I made a difference with a simple, black armband. Can you imagine what a 13-year-old could do today with all of the extraordinary speech tools available?”

Join her and the others who believe in student expression as a tool for civic engagement in supporting the Tinker Tour.

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Ammunition to help define disruption Part 2 of a series

Posted by on Oct 1, 2011 in Blog, Law and Ethics, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments


Although we hoped Tinker v DesMoines might be the definitive word for what is material or substantial disruption in schools, recent events involving digital media and off-campus expression keep the issue alive – and contentious.

School safety issues, including arguments that schools need to protect themselves from cyberbullying and other off-campus speech issues making their way to campus, continue to raise questions about what is disruptive speech.

That is why a master’s thesis at Arizona State University by Kristy Roschke might be helpful not only for advisers, but students and administrators.

“More than 50 years later, Tinker still plays a vital role in protecting the First Amendment rights of students; however, the somewhat vague concept of “material or substantial disruption” has created confusion and disagreement amongst the courts,” Roschke wrote in her thesis.

Roschke cites a “mismatched set of guidelines from various cases that lead is confusing guidelines for administrators to work with, and often misapply to current situations.

Results of her study indicate the majority of decisions made by school administrators fall in category she calls “merely upsetting,” and do not reach the category of  “truly disruptive.”

“Administrators’ actions often showed a misinterpretation or complete disregard for the rights granted to students by the Court,” Roschke writes, “all in the name of avoiding conflict that may or may not occur. What is worse is that, when left unchecked, school administrators are largely getting away with stifling student expression for whatever reason they deem appropriate.”

The purpose of this post then is to provide advisers and administrators with access to Roschke’s work in hopes examining it will be used to prevent misunderstanding, misinterpretation and, ultimately, censorship.

Our posting comes in two forms: an executive summary of the thesis and the entire thesis.

The full thesis provides a thorough examination of court decisions and legal standards cited and the implications of the court decisions.

We thank Kristy for agreeing to let us post her work. We hope you will find it as informative and useful as we did.

Part 1 of this series: Sisley v Seattle and liability.

Part 3 of the series will focus on reporting controversy or what can be seen as controversial.

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