For the Media

Founded in 1974, the Student Press Law Center educates high school and college journalists about the rights and responsibilities embodied in the First Amendment, and supports the student news media in coverage free from censorship. The SPLC is the only organization in the U.S. dedicated solely to providing legal information and educational materials to student journalists and their advisers. All services are free of charge.

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  •  TUPD investigation localizes national conversation about campus policing, Tulane Hullabaloo, Tulane University, New Orleans (4/18/2018)  In a 2016 press release from the Student Press Law Center, an organization that advocates for first amendment rights and fights censorship, Tulane was listed as one of “17 private colleges that refused to directly provide records to the SPLC.” 
  • What Would Happen If Students Walked Out Until Gun Laws Changed? TeenVogue.com (4/19/2018). Organizations like the American Civil Liberties Union have sided with students who choose to protest for minutes or for a day, but there isn’t a precedent for indefinite absences by unknown numbers of students. “That’s kind of where we are with the walkout,” Mike Hiestand, senior legal counsel at the Student Press Law Center, told Teen Vogue. “That’s a substantial disruption of school…so this is kind of an exercise of civil disobedience, this is deciding, ‘it’s against the rules, but we think it’s worth doing.’”
  • Speech policy earns red light rating, Northern Star,  Northern Illinois University, DeKalb, Ill. (4/19/2018). Mike Hiestand, senior legal consultant at Student Press Law Center, said for public schools like NIU it is made clear in courts that vague or broad language is not permissible. He said words considered inappropriate and offensive don’t have any particular legal meaning. “It is not fair to either side really, to the students that are being charged with offensive speech or school officials who are charged with enforcing the rules.”
  • Newspaper thief confesses to police, The Oracle, Tennessee Tech University, Cookeville (4/17/2018). Copies of The Oracle are free per single copy, however, taking more than one is considered theft, according to the Student Press Law Center. That policy is printed on the front page of The Oracle.
  • Suspended for Sexual Assault, Readmitted One Year Later, The AS Review,  Western Washington University, Bellingham (4/16/2018).  The university has refused to release names of students found to have committed sexual misconduct, citing FERPA, the federal student privacy law, in spite of a provision in the law explicitly allowing them to do so.Mike Hiestand, the Student Press Law Center’s senior legal counsel, disagrees with this practice. “It seems like Western’s policy now is they’re just not going to provide [that info] and that flies in the face of the intent of the law,” he said. “The law was intended to provide more transparency to these campus disciplinary systems.”
  • A judge will likely order BYU police to be more transparent, CBS2-KUTV, Salt Lake City, Utah (April 14, 2018).  “If a police department has the authority to carry guns, make arrests, it's a no-brainer — they ought to be covered by the same sort of rules of accountability that all police departments are subject to,” the SPLC’s Mike Hiestand said. 
  • OSARP warns student not to speak out on sexual assault case, The Breeze, James Madison University, Harrisonburg, Va. (4/12/2018). “This is starting to become a real problem,” Hiestand said in an email. “Schools are telling students that the law prohibits them from discussing how the university handles their claims. I don’t want to get [too] lawyerly on you, but our opinion at the SPLC is that this is bullshit.
  • Doane, other universities do not report concussions, The Doane Owl, Crete, Neb. (4/11/2018). Taylor Potter, an intern at the Student Press Law Center in Washington D.C., contacted the Owl in March to ask questions for a similar piece he was writing.
  • Concern, condemnation after SFCC student newspaper reports on Pitcher scandal disappear, The Spokesman-Review, Spokane, Wash. (4/5/2018). “As the faculty adviser, I will be working with campus security, attorneys from the Student Press Law Center and local law enforcement to discover who is responsible and ensure that they are punished for this infringement of students’ First Amendment rights,” Jason Nix wrote.
  • Here’s What We Know About Private-College Police Departments, The Chronicle of Higher Education (4/5/2018). They’re somewhat common, they often have transparency issues, and their quasi-public status means that courts and legislatures must wrestle with the regulations and protections covering officers.
  • CSUF Associated Students conducts internal investigation of meetings deemed illegal by legal expert, The Daily Titan, California State University, Fullerton (4/4/2018). We can clearly say they violated the law by not posting notice of agenda,” said Mike Hiestand, attorney and senior legal consultant for the Student Press Law Center.
  • Advice to Students: trust yourself, and your voice, The Observer, Central Washington University, Ellensburg. (4/4/2018). “We follow an editorial policy. If it doesn’t follow that policy, we will not write it,” or “I will have to contact the Student Press Law Center (SPLC) on that matter and can give you an answer after I contact them,” or my personal favorite, “Whether I am a student journalist or professional journalist, I am still a journalist and deserve to be protected from censorship.”
  • SMU’s Student Media Company to dissolve in May, The Daily Campus, Southern Methodist University, Dallas. (4/4/2018) After an almost-90-year run as SMU’s independent, student-led publishing company, Student Media Company will close its doors in May.
  • Wintrust conflict of interest remains in question, The DePaulia, DePaul University, Chicago. (4/2/2018). Frank LoMonte, Director of the Brechner Center for Freedom of Information at the University of Florida and the former executive director and current senior fellow of the Student Press Law Center in Washington D.C., said that the conflict of interest form could “absolutely be disclosed.”
  • Private police forces lack accountability. Johns Hopkins shouldn’t create one, The Diamondback, University of Maryland, College Park, (3/27/2018). In most states, including Maryland, private campus police forces are "largely exempt" from public record law, according to the Student Press Law Center.
  • Student journalists win decades-long fight against censorship, The Seattle Times, (3/25/2018). The Student Press Law Center commemorated the 30th anniversary of the Hazelwood decision with a state-by-state campaign to change the law.
  • American high school journalists fight school-ordered censorship, WikiTribune (3/23/2018). The most common reason for censorship, and the most common reason the hotline at the Student Press Law Center rings, is a school’s reputation being put at risk.
  • CSUF Associated Students holds closed election hearings; expert says meetings were illegal, The Daily Titan, Cal State Fullerton (3/21/2018). Associated Students violated a California open meeting law over the last two weeks by failing to post agendas for three closed meetings, according to a legal expert. 
  • DTH's public record lawsuit against UNC goes to appeal, oral arguments, The Daily Tar Heel, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. (3/20/2018). The Student Press Law Center, a nonprofit that provides legal assistant to college reporters, sent a friend-of-the-court brief to the NC Appeals Court last September, arguing UNC was misconstruing FERPA to public access of the records.
  • Concord police investigating sexual assault report, Charleston (W.V.) Gazette-Mail, (2/28/2018). “When you see those goose eggs, you do have to ask what's going on with the reporting,” said Mike Hiestand, senior attorney at the Student Press Law Center. “I'm guessing students in West Virginia are no more angelic than anywhere else.”  
  • Can Houston-area students be punished for protesting? Houston Chronicle, (2/23/2018). School administrators can punish students for any protest action that disrupts classwork, involves "substantial disorder" or invades the rights of others. Other types of speech including slander, libel or speech that incites violence also are not protected.
  • Unaffiliated inserts in last week’s issue of The Record,  The Record, College of St. Benedict and St. John’s University, Collegeville, Minn. (2/22/2018). While it isn’t common, SPLC Staff Attorney Sommer Ingram Dean said there are potential consequences of tampering with newspapers.
  • Bill to protect First Amendment rights of (Washington) student newspapers moves through Legislature, Peninsula Daily News,  Port Angeles, Wash. (2/27/17).  Lawmakers are considering adding protections for high school and college newspapers, allowing student journalists to determine their own content. SB 5064, sponsored by Sen. Joe Fain, R-Auburn, passed the Senate easily with a vote of 45-4 Jan. 19. The bill was passed by the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee on Thursday.
  • Can Houston-area students be punished for protesting? Houston Chronicle (2/23/2018)  "I think certainly no one would argue walking out of class while school is in session is disruptive and will not be legally protected," said Mike Hiestand, senior legal consultant to the Student Press Law Center ... Hiestand, however, said schools cannot tack on additional punishments because a student is protesting. 
  • What part of state law does WCSD not understand? Reno (Nev.) Gazette Journal, (2/20/2018)  The senior legal consultant for the Student Law Press Center in Washington, D.C., Mike Hiestand, weighed in and called WCSD’s decision to control a yearbook’s content as “absolutely ridiculous … Yearbook is every bit as much a journalistic enterprise as a student newspaper or other student media.”
  • Students, free speech advocates outraged over WCSD policy that would censor yearbooks, Reno (Nev.) Gazette-Journal (2/16/2018). A proposed Washoe County School District regulation that would censor what students can publish in yearbooks likely violates a recently passed Nevada law that protects students’ First Amendment rights, says Washoe County student journalists and student free speech experts. 
  • After finding nationwide support, Utah high school journalists are considering the next steps in their censorship battle with administration, The Salt Lake Tribune, Salt Lake City, Nev. (1/27/2018)  “One of the big misconceptions is it gives schools unlimited ability to censor students,” said Mike Hiestand senior legal counsel for the Student Press Law Center. “Hazelwood doesn’t apply to every case. And even if Hazelwood does apply, there still is a standard. Schools have to show there is a reasonable educational justification for their action.” 
  • Louisiana Teacher's Arrest Wasn't the Only Time School Boards Tried to Block Free Speech, Education Week (1/11/18). A Louisiana teacher was arrested after speaking at a school board meeting, which the SPLC says is part of a trend of school boards restricting public comment.
  • College Media Year in Review: Defending Free Speech for Students, MediaShift (12/27/17). College Media Association President Chris Evans looks at ways colleges have tried to take independence from student publications — and how students are fighting back.
  • Guest Column: A high-profile media clash inspires a student journalist, Reporter Newspapers (12/16/17). In a guest column, Eddie Samuels, a managing editor for The Tufts Daily, chronicles his newspaper's experience in getting a cease and desist letter from former White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci.
  • NCAC Joins FIRE and SPLC to Support Student Press Freedom at Texas State University, National Coalition Against Censorship (12/8/17). In a blog post, NCAC announces they have co-signed a letter which demands freedom of speech and freedom of the press are to be upheld at Texas State University in the midst of a controversial editorial published by The University Star.
  • A free press shouldn't stop at the schoolyard, CNN (11/29/17). In an op-ed, the SPLC's Frank LoMonte uses the story of two high school journalists taking on a court's decision to seal a lawsuit file to illustrate the importance of students' press rights.
  • Tufts postpones Scaramucci talk after he threatens to sue student, The Washington Post (11/27/17). Tufts University postponed a talk by former White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci after he threatened to sue a student who wrote a critical opinion column in the student newspaper, The Tufts Daily.
  • Restart the presses: Despite challenges, student publications revived throughout mid-valley, Corvallis (Ore.) Gazette-Times (11/19/2017) Mike Hiestand, senior legal adviser at the Student Press Law Center, said he doesn't think the mid-valley's experience with resurrected publications is a trend across the country. "I wish that this were a trend that we were seeing. Honestly, I think this is kind of an anomaly," he said. "Schools tend to be zeroing out budgets, and student media are among the first to go."
  • After controversy over dating guide, big changes ahead for Plainfield High School magazine, The Indianapolis Star, (11/1/2017) While the district has said that additional oversight will protect the students, Mike Hiestand, legal consultant for the Student Press Law Center, said this kind of review is the first step toward censorship. "Prior review is the gateway drug to censorship," Hiestand said. 
  • College Media Association Announces Creation of The Frank LoMonte Ethics in Journalism Award. College Media Association (11/1/2017).  The first recipient of the Frank LoMonte Ethics in Journalism Award is Ernabel Demillo, former adviser at Saint Peter’s University in Jersey City, New Jersey. 
  • Column: Student journalists deserve more protection, Tampa Bay Times (09/28/17). In a guest column, former SPLC executive director Frank LoMonte writes about the push for student press rights and the importance of New Voices legislation.
  • A nationwide movement protecting the student press from censorship gains momentum, Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press (9/8/17). The SPLC's New Voices initiative helps pass laws protecting student journalists in several states. 
  • GRO removes Technician from impeachment hearing without legal basis, The Technician,  North Carolina State University, Raleigh.(9/6/2017). Mike Hiestand, attorney and legal consultant to the Student Press Law Center, sent this statement to Technician via email: "It's certainly a lousy way to kick off the school year,” Hiestand said. “Open meetings laws exist for a reason. They are reflected in the student government's own constitution and they're not optional. You can't just re-write them as you go.
  • When student journalists need defending, these lawyers swoop in. For free., The Washington Post (6/18/17). Margaret Sullivan, media columnist.  Founded in 1974, the center works in a spartan rented office in northwest Washington. The four-member staff, which includes paid interns and law students, not only responds to crises, but also sends a network of more than 200 lawyer-volunteers from all corners of the country to do workshops for student journalists, intended to prevent problems before they arise. 
  • Fake news, real solutions, Medium (12/20/2016).  Here’s some non-fake news: More and more states are awakening to the reality that meaningful civic preparation requires protecting journalists against the worst excesses of image-motivated censorship.  
  • U. football crisis: Train wreck of a privacy statute made matters worse, Minneapolis Star-Tribune (12/19/16). In a guest op-ed column, SPLC's Frank LoMonte says FERPA student confidentiality makes no sense when applied to nationally prominent athletes whose disciplinary cases are already a matter of public concern, especially where serious crimes are alleged.
  • School Bullying, Civic Engagement and the First Amendment in Donald Trump's AmericaThe Seventy Four (11/27/16). SPLC urges caution in resorting to disciplinary action to quell the nonviolent exchange of sharp political disagreements: “If it’s just a spirited exchange of opinions, by all means let’s embrace the teachable moment. You can’t make schools a civics-free zone, and you can’t ban the discussion of divisive political topics if people are going to learn to be participatory citizens.”
  • Student Press Law Center director tells UMD students their rights have “gotten worse” The Diamondback, University of Maryland, College Park, (10/13/2016). "Students need to start taking back ownership of campuses that have been stolen from them by corporations," SPLC Executive Director Frank LoMonte said. 
  • Salt Lake Tribune sues, says BYU police should have to release records. Salt Lake Tribune (7/12/2016). "When you voluntarily assume that authority, you necessarily have to accept the accountability that goes with that," LoMonte said. "There is an overriding public interest, never clearer than it has been [recently], in knowing how police use their governmental authority. If you don't want to have state government authority, you can operate a campus security department and ... call in city or county police when an arrest needs to be made."
  • Student journalist In trouble? Call this man. American University's Voice-Less Project (4/27/2016). Despite widespread attention to campus cultural disputes over safe spaces and trigger warnings, SPLC's Frank LoMonte says administrators' "image obsession" is the biggest free-speech threat on campus.
  • How One University is Punishing Its Students For Writing About Sex. Jezebel (4/7/2016). Frank LoMonte said administration's censorship of a student newspaper happens often. "There are some really successful high-end programs that are well-supported by their colleges that are doing amazing stuff. And then you've got other campuses where journalism is regarded as an annoyance and a threat to the college's positive image."
  • Denver student withdraws her art after police criticism. Salon (3/25/2016). Frank LoMonte said criticism from authorities might make young people in Denver less willing to talk about their fear of police. "However well-founded or not that fear may be, it's real, it exists, and it's something the community should be discussing."
  • Fight Over Private College Police Records. Inside Higher Ed (3/22/2016). Frank LoMonte spoke out against an Indiana bill that would limit the amount of records private colleges' police departments have to release. "Police power is the ultimate governmental authority. When you voluntarily assume that level of responsibility, you have to take the accountability that goes with it."
  • Yale's Men's Basketball Captain Reportedly Expelled for Sexual Misconduct. Jezebel (3/10/2016). Adam Goldstein said that confidentiality policies surrounding sexual misconduct adjudication often go against the Clery Act. "They say that everything about this process has to be secret, including the thing where we require you to agree to the secrecy."
  • Student journalists in state may get more free-speech protection. The Seattle Times (2/14/2016). Frank LoMonte spoke about the New Voices campaign and the effects of the Hazelwood ruling, which he said "has evolved into a device for schools to suppress complaints by people who are dissatisfied with the level of education services they're receiving." 
  • Protecting Student Journalists in a New-Media Era. Chronicle of Higher Education (2/11/2016). Frank LoMonte spoke about the importance of passing student press freedom legislation state by state. "Censorship has always been a harmful educational practice, but now it's also a futile and self-defeating practice," he said. "While schools are nervous about newspapers, they are utterly petrified by how people are talking about the school on social media, and journalism is an antidote."
  • Free Press Advocates Oppose Jailing Media-Blocking Missouri Professor. Inside Sources (1/26/2016). Frank LoMonte said jail would be "overkill" for Melissa Click, but she should complete a service project "that informs the public about the need for journalists to have access to public spaces to perform their essential watchdog role."
  • Lawyer: Policy silencing council members 'unconstitutional.' WAVY-TV (1/14/2106). Frank LoMonte said a city council's policy prohibiting members from discussing closed session items with the public is unconstitutional. 
  • Opinion: De Anza students: Fight to keep your free speech rights. La Voz News (12/1/2015). Frank LoMonte said subjecting student groups' social media accounts to administrative control "speaks to the overwrought and hysterical response of educational institutions across the country to social media."
  • San Gabriel High students' journalism wins award, but you can't read it. Pasadena Star-News (11/13/2015). Frank LoMonte said the censorship and retaliation happening at San Gabriel High School is a "national disgrace, and the public knows about it only because these young journalists are unafraid to tell the truth, even in the face of intimidation tactics." 
  • The plot against student newspapers? The Atlantic (09/30/2015). Frank LoMonte said image-conscious colleges are taking advantage of difficult economic times "to rid themselves of journalists they never liked anyway." 
  • Body cams in schools? Controversy erupts after Iowa district proposes new push for transparency, The Seventy Four (09/08/2015). Frank LoMonte said this proposal is the first he's heard of. "Any time you see a new technology introduced that has potential to change the game for the application of discipline, it's worth watching," he said.
  • D.C. principal says prior newspaper review keeps students 'safe and protected,' Washington Post (8/31/2015). Frank LoMonte said a high school principal's threatened policy to exercise prior review for the student newspaper could be a violation of D.C. code. "This is a highly decorated program and darned if the principal hasn't made up her mind to screw it up," he said.
  • For student journalists in North Dakota, free press is getting a bit more free, Associated Press (8/30/2015). Frank LoMonte said North Dakota's new anti-Hazelwood law restores common sense to student journalism. "Student journalism is a resource to the entire school community, but too often students are told they're not permitted to express any opinions or expose any facts that portray the school in an unflattering light," he said. 
  • Private email use illegal? 'Hard to say,' The (Illinois) News-Gazette (8/11/2015). Adam Goldstein said former University of Illinois Chancellor Phyllis Wise's disclosure that she and fellow administrators used private email accounts for UI business is "certainly unlawful."
  • UH won't say what happened to 5 suspended fraternity members, Houston Chronicle (7/28/2015). Frank LoMonte said universities can withhold information only if it caused a person in the overall community to figure out who the students are. "I doubt very seriously releasing a statistic such as six students were suspended would cause the average person on campus to make a match," he said.
  • How university foundations try to avoid public scrutiny — and what reporters can do, Columbia Journalism Review (7/16/2015). Frank LoMonte said there is a strong public interest in the openness of donor information. "It's ironic that the institutions that claim they'll be unable to raise money if they can't protect their donors' privacy will engrave the donors' names in 10-foot-high letters into the facades of buildings," he said. 
  • Lawmakers seek to ban disclosure of student emails, Casper Star Tribune (7/6/2015). Frank LoMonte said if this bill passes, Wyoming would be the first in the country to exempt all student emails. "It’s fine to say that emails containing confidential educational information can be withheld, but it really makes no sense to have that as a blanket proposition," he said.
  • Removal of faculty advisers sparks concern about independence of student publications, Columbia Journalism Review (6/22/2015). Frank LoMonte said college newspaper advisers are often most vulnerable at schools in remote communities underserved by professional media. "If schools continue to play Whac-A-Mole with smaller programs, then the one-percenter programs—the Cronkites, the Medills—will be the only real games left in town," he said. 
  • A principal yanked a drug article from a student newspaper, so it ran online, The Washington Post (4/5/2015). Frank LoMonte said equating writing about a behavior with encouraging it would disallow students from covering a variety of topics relevant to high school students, including drunken driving and sexually transmitted diseases. "There's obviously a difference between exposing people to information and exposing them to a drug," he said.
  • Emails made public by Board of Regents dwindling, The Cedar Rapids Gazette (3/20/2015). Frank LoMonte said public officials often avoid a paper trail so that their actions are not scrutinized, adding that "a lot of government officials have their emails on a tight purge, knowing that they are subject to disclosure of public records."
  • Bill aims to shine light on police actions at private schools like SMU, The Dallas Morning News (3/18/2015). Frank LoMonte said private university police departments should have to abide by the same accountability standards as other officers. "It's scary to think that there are people walking around with loaded guns who can shoot you and don't have to explain why," he said.
  • When does writing raise red flags?, The Gazette (Cedar Rapids) (2/22/2015). Frank LoMonte said the key to responding to violent speech "is about whether authorities react in a measured way or whether they immediately go to arrest and prosecution."
  • UVa asking Congress to reform student privacy laws, The Daily Progress (1/23/2015). Frank LoMonte said a 2011 memo from the Department of Transportation effectively allows universities to share information in any situation where public safety is at risk. He said the rape of one student by another student - or any other person on campus - probably would fulfill the exception outlined by the Department of Education.
  • Uniontown Area considers discipline for players' 'I can't breathe' shirts, The Morning Call (1/16/2015). Frank LoMonte said a 2011 memo from the Department of Transportation effectively allows universities to share information in any situation where public safety is at risk. He said the rape of one student by another student - or any other person on campus - probably would fulfill the exception outlined by the Department of Education.