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Want odds worse than playing against a casino with loaded dice? Try appealing a school disciplinary decision.

(04/18/11 8:27am)

Jaw-dropping statistic of the month... A group of Fairfax County, Va., parents that is crusading for reform to their suburban school district's disciplinary system used the Virginia Open Records Act to find out how well students fare when they appeal the punishment they receive. Out of 5,025 cases over the past six years that went to a district-level appeal hearing, students were successful in getting disciplinary penalties overturned exactly zero times, according to the parents' compilation. That's right, 0-for-5,025. Even casinos let people win sometimes.


Censored Colorado students to receive Iowa State SPJ's First Amendment award

(04/01/11 3:46pm)

Two student editors from Overland High School in Colorado will be honored by next week by the Iowa State University chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. Lori Schafer and Jaclyn Gutierrez say principal Leon Lundie shut down their newspaper and removed their adviser after they wrote a story about a student who died.


Peabody Award-winning NPR feature on campus sexual assault provides a road map for college journalists

(04/03/11 4:46pm)

The inability of campus disciplinary systems to deal adequately with sexual-assault cases has been a subject of intense media scrutiny. Rarely has the story been told with as much depth and effectiveness as in NPR's series, "Seeking Justice for Campus Rapes," in which multiple student victims came forward and told their stories on the record, putting their voices on-air and their faces online to dramatize the frequency with which forced sex goes unpunished. On Thursday, the producers of the "Seeking Justice" series were honored with one of 39 Peabody Awards, perhaps the most prestigious award in all of broadcasting, presented annually by the University of Georgia's Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication. The series explores the impact on victims -- some of whom end up dropping out of school to avoid contact with their attackers -- when a student conduct system that was never designed to handle serious criminal offenses deals out little-to-no punishment. It also highlights -- for victims and for journalists -- the availability of a little-known resource, the U.S.




TRANSPARENCY TUESDAY: No campus crime should go uncounted

(04/12/11 8:50pm)

Hundreds of angry students at Dickinson College recently marched on the administration building to demand greater public disclosure of sexual assaults at the 2,300-student private institution near Harrisburg, Pa. The students obtained some concessions -- their administrators agreed to more readily activate the campus-wide alert system upon learning of sex crimes -- and they also spotlighted what Pennsylvania's Patriot-News called the "top-secret justice system" that enables colleges to minimize public disclosure of campus offenses, even violent ones. In an extensive investigation published last year, the Center for Public Integrity analyzed the annual crime statistics filed with the U.S.


Univ. of Illinois announces appeal in federal case involving public records, FERPA

(04/13/11 4:55pm)

The University of Illinois announced Tuesday it is appealing a judge’s ruling that federal student privacy law does not prevent the release of records under the state open records act. In court filings, the university also asks Judge Joan Gottschall to stay her ruling while the appeal moves forward in the 7th U.S.


Va. administrators score a Muzzle award for spiking PE editorial

(04/13/11 5:29pm)

Albemarle High School joined the ranks of the Obama administration, airport security and the Smithsonian on Wednesday – and not in a good way. Administrators at the Charlottesville, Va., school were given a Jefferson Muzzle award Wednesday following a 2010 spat involving the school’s student newspaper. As the SPLC reported in June, copies of The Revolution were confiscated and destroyed because of an editorial suggesting student athletes be able to opt out of PE class.



TRANSPARENCY TUESDAY: Top dogs, top paychecks -- presidential pay and perks can raise eyebrows, questions

(04/21/11 7:06am)

Year in and year out, some of the best money that a college newsroom can invest is in a subscription to The Chronicle of Higher Education, which – along with its comparably excellent (and online-only) competitor Inside Higher Ed – is a factory cranking out steal-able story ideas. The Chronicle is out with its annual survey of the compensation packages of presidents at America’s 185 largest public universities covering 2009-10, and as always, the compilation is fascinating reading (and provides multiple opportunities for follow-up and localization). Note that the term is “compensation” and not “salary” for a reason.


College radio stations declare "moment of silence" to mark the "death" of independent student voices on the airwaves

(04/27/11 5:17pm)

Critics sometimes bemoan the "sameness" of programming across the over-the-air radio dial, but for one minute on Thursday, listeners truly will hear exactly the same thing whether they are in Missouri or Maryland or Michigan: The sound of silence. Not the Simon and Garfunkel classic, either.


Supreme Court debates First Amendment rights of elected officials in ethics law case

(04/27/11 7:17pm)

Supreme Court justices appeared perplexed Wednesday about how to resolve the case of a Nevada city councilman who claims his First Amendment free-speech rights were violated when he was penalized for voting on a casino development that financially benefited his campaign manager. Councilman Michael A.


Pa. district's news media policy avoids restrictive school board association 'model'

(04/28/11 10:16am)

PENNSYLVANIA — After press advocates last year raised concerns about a policy that could have restricted students and staff from speaking to the media without approval, the Wilson School District adopted a less restrictive policy. The school board adopted a revised “News Media Relations” policy at its Dec.


Maryland journalists' fight for campus sexual assault records yields more (and less) than expected

(04/28/11 7:49pm)

Twenty years ago, Congress decided that colleges could no longer hide behind federal privacy law to withhold information when they determined that a sex offense had been committed on campus. Knowing that serious crimes often are processed through secretive disciplinary channels outside of public view, Congress amended the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) to say that the outcome of a disciplinary hearing is not confidential if the student is found culpable for conduct amounting to a crime of violence or a sex crime. Colleges have been slow to get this message, however, and Exhibit A is the University of Maryland -- which for the better part of the last three years fought student journalists' attempts to report on the way rape allegations are investigated and punished. It took a ruling from the state attorney general -- and even then, compliance took many months and a battle over jacked-up fees -- before the university agreed to comply with the Maryland Public Information Act and release the documents sought by student reporters from Capital News Service. Now it's apparent why Maryland was so resistant to disclosure: Because the answer to the question "who has been punished for committing a sexual assault on campus" is "almost no one." If the university's public-records production is complete, then only four students -- one of them a former Maryland Terrapins quarterback who transferred away in 2006 -- were punished by the school's Office of Student Conduct for sex offenses over the last 10 years, according to CNS. That is a remarkably low number for a school that enrolls more than 37,000 students annually. Maryland's Clery Act report, a federally mandated snapshot of campus crimes, shows 105 forcible sexual assaults reported from 2006 through 2008 alone.