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Back in session, state lawmakers introduce new legislation on cyberbullying

(01/23/13 6:47pm)

With the start of a new legislative session in many statehouses, cyberbullying has reappeared on the radar this month. Legislators in four states have all proposed bills that either amend the definition of "bullying" or require school boards to implement policy regarding cyberbullying and other forms of harassment. States with pending legislation on issues of bullying and cyberbullying include: Alaska: A proposal to amend the state's bullying law to include electronic as well as in-person communications. New Mexico: Another proposal to include cyberbullying as a form of bullying, as well as a requirement for school boards to implement a "cyberbullying prevention policy" by August 2013. New York: A proposal to revise the state's newly enacted 2012 cyberbullying law to define cyberbullying as "a repeated course of communication, or repeatedly causing a communication to be sent, by mechanical or electronic means, posting statements on the internet or through a computer network with no legitimate communication purpose which causes alarm or serious annoyance, or is likely to cause alarm or serious annoyance." Virginia: Clarifies the term "bullying" and requires districts to enact anti-bullying policies not just involving student-on-student conduct but also bullying of school employees by other employees. It is difficult to characterize cyberbullying legislation as a free speech issue because of the understandable public sympathy over bullying's influence on young people.

Censorship, eh? Two student newspapers in Canada face threats

(01/28/13 11:55am)

Two Canadian student newspapers are fighting back after threats of censorship this month. At one, a student government group wants to kick the newspaper out of its offices, and at another, campus administrators seek a ruling that would allow them to ignore the students' current and future requests for public records. The editor of The Gazette, the University of Western Ontario’s independent student newspaper, learned a few weeks ago that the newspaper's editorial office would be turned into a prayer room. The proposal came after the University Students’ Council began an extensive review of The Gazette’s practices. According to the newspaper's reports, it was after this review that the paper learned that its editorial office of 40 years would be converted into a new multi-faith room in response to what the committee referenced as concerns from those who use the current prayer room. The proposed move would put Gazette staff members in a space that is more than 700 square feet smaller than the current office.

New social media privacy protection laws take effect for the New Year

(01/01/13 1:38pm)

It's a happier new year in California, Michigan and Illinois, where the privacy of social networking sites gains new legal protection today. Effective January 1, it's illegal for employers in those three states to demand the login or password information for employees' or applicants' personal social media pages.

Supreme Court justices' papers give some hints about how Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier came to be

(01/09/13 6:25pm)

Education Week's Mark Walsh, a veteran Supreme Court reporter who deeply understands education law, is just out with a fascinating look behind the scenes at how the high court arrived at the First Amendment legal standard that governs much of the speech taking place in schools (and, increasingly, in colleges). The entire piece is well worth reading, but it's particularly enlightening for the nuggets Walsh was able to unearth from the papers of Justices Byron White, author of the majority opinion in Hazelwood School District v.

N.C. ruling sets back college athletes' ability to challenge removal from teams

(01/16/13 5:06pm)

There's an intriguing new ruling out from North Carolina's Court of Appeals that, while not directly related to free expression, portends difficulty for the inevitable legal challenge as more college athletes are punished for what they say on social media. The court of appeals decided Tuesday that a former Tar Heels football player has no claim against either the University of North Carolina or the NCAA for the loss of earnings he believes he suffered when he was barred from the team for his senior season, leaving him to enter the NFL as an undrafted free agent receiving the league's minimum salary. Michael McAdoo was kicked off the team after being accused of accepting inappropriate help from a tutor in completing a term paper for (yes, really) his Swahili class, leading the NCAA to declare him ineligible to play. On top of the NCAA disqualification, UNC suspended McAdoo for a semester and put him on academic probation, but did not take away his athletic scholarship entirely. It's worth perusing the entire opinion, but the bottom line is that, in the view of the three-judge panel in North Carolina, McAdoo has no case because he lost only playing time, not his scholarship, housing and other tangible university benefits.

Hazelwood turns 25: Five simple ways you can make sure it never turns 50

(01/06/13 2:13pm)

A movie of trained fighting dogs ripping each other to pieces. Ten million dollars from an undisclosed source dumped into a special-interest ad campaign to sway the outcome of an election. A padded resumé falsely claiming credit for military heroism. A video game in which players tear the limbs off their opponents, then beat them to death with the blood-soaked stumps. "Thank God for Dead Soldiers" hate-speech signs waved outside of a military funeral. A newspaper editorial advocating the defeat of a school board candidate who supports banning books. The Supreme Court thinks one of these is unprotected by the First Amendment. If you guessed it was the editorial, then you are likely either (a) a federal judge or (b) a victim of Hazelwood justice. This coming Sunday marks 25 years since the Supreme Court confined America's young people to a constitutional underclass in Hazelwood School District v.

TRANSPARENCY TUESDAY: This just in... lawyers have to obey the law

(01/08/13 10:09pm)

Like it or not, attorneys who work on contract for government agencies -- and, it turns out, even those whose payment flows through government agencies' insurance companies -- must let the public know what they're charging for. That's the bottom line of a new ruling from the Wisconsin Supreme Court that comes just a few months after courts in California and Ohio reached the same conclusion.

Colorado student shares his experience confronting and overcoming censorship

(01/10/13 12:02pm)

In conjunction with the approaching 25th anniversary of the Supreme Court's pro-censorship Hazelwood ruling, the following is a column written by Steve Marcantonio, a Colorado high school student journalist, sharing his recent experience with censorship and how he worked with administrators to overcome it. With a familiar feeling of excitement and accomplishment, I looked at the latest issue of my school’s newspaper and flipped it open to the page that I knew would contain my name in bold print, next to the title of Editor-in-Chief.

Do college newspaper archives matter? Ask Cory Booker.

(01/11/13 7:41pm)

Hundreds of times a year, phones ring in newsrooms across the country, college and professional alike, with a variation of: "Your archives are ruining my life!" With decades-old back editions being digitized into online-searchable form, youthful indiscretions that seemed to have disappeared into obscurity are Googling their way back into view.

Former Famuan editors start "underground" online publication, Ink and Fangs

(01/14/13 1:15pm)

This weekend, former editors of The Famuan at Florida A&M University launched an underground website,, to distribute news during a suspension of the paper's publishing by the journalism school's dean. Karl Etters, who had been serving as editor-in-chief of The Famuan before being told last week that he would have to reapply for his job, said the staff of about 10 made the decision to create the site because they feel it's important to continue covering the campus. The Famuan's first issue of the semester was to have been published today, but staff learned last week that journalism dean Ann Kimbrough was suspending publication until staff completed training.

Student media speak up in defense of exiled Famuan staff

(01/17/13 8:10pm)

In the week and a half since the staff of The Famuan at Florida A&M University learned they could not publish the paper as planned without taking part in additional training and reapplying for their position, student journalists at newspapers across the country have spoken up in defense of the Famuan staff in several strongly worded editorials and columns. Over at The Arizona Daily Wildcat, Editor-in-Chief Kristina Bui criticized the decision by FAMU administrators to shut down the paper's printing after the filing of a libel lawsuit against the paper last month.

To fix FERPA, raise the price of lying

(01/20/13 1:14pm)

Put yourself in the place of a school or college attorney. Your client, the institution, is trying to decide whether to fulfill or reject a journalist's request for public records. Honoring the request is going to be a nuisance, and the records contain some embarrassing information the school would rather not see on the evening news. The records pretty clearly don't contain any confidential student information -- but the journalist can't easily prove that.

FAMU journalism division director speaks out about Famuan situation

(01/24/13 12:14pm)

As I mentioned in my Wednesday story, journalism administrators have been pretty tight-lipped since news broke that the school's dean had suspended publishing of The Famuan while requiring editors to reapply for their positions and attend training sessions. This morning, I heard back from Valerie White, the director of the school's journalism division.