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May 21 Rapture checklist: Say prayers, kiss family goodbye, donate to SPLC

(05/19/11 10:47am)

Fans of the Student Press Law Center are pretty astute consumers of news, so we assume you’ve all heard by now that, around suppertime this Saturday, civilization as we know it is coming to an end. When the Second Circuit kneecapped students’ free-speech rights on the Internet in the Doninger case, we said, “Gosh, that’s awful.


Nothing funny about what happened to this forum; 2nd Circuit tramples legal precedent to rule against censored students

(05/22/11 4:40pm)

It's tempting to say that a federal appeals court's ill-considered decision in dismissing the First Amendment claims of censored journalists from New York's Ithaca High School is a fluke, a one-of-a-kind happenstance that carries no larger meaning for the well-being of journalists elsewhere. After all, last week's ruling by the 2nd U.S.




For California student videographer, a (non-)punishment that fits the (non-)crime

(05/04/11 5:55pm)

The second legal scrape of student videographer Josh Wolf's young career will not sting nearly so hard as the first. Wolf -- who holds the unwanted distinction of being America's longest-imprisoned journalist, for defying a federal grand jury subpoena to turn over videotapes shot at a protest rally -- got back into hot water in November 2009 for getting a little too close to the action at a demonstration on the University of California-Berkeley campus. Wolf was accused of three violations of UC-Berkeley's student conduct code when he remained inside a campus building occupied by student protesters despite a police order to leave.




TRANSPARENCY TUESDAY: Policing how schools fund extracurricular activities

(05/10/11 2:17pm)

Those nickel-and-dime fees for participating in the school band, lacrosse team or cheerleading squad are a frequent irritant to cash-strapped parents -- and it turns out, they may sometimes be illegal. The San Diego Union-Tribune has discovered that privately organized booster clubs in one local school district were exacting hundreds of dollars per student in mandatory participation fees for band, color guard and other after-school activities.


Student rights took center stage on World Press Freedom Day

(05/11/11 1:35pm)

Last week's celebration of World Press Freedom Day was devoted to the theme of "21st century media," and the central role of students as society's information-gatherers was impossible to ignore -- down to the gavel-to-gavel coverage supplied by student volunteers from Georgetown University. The Student Press Law Center and 39 leading journalism groups from across America joined in urging the delegates to the UNESCO-sponsored event to keep the rights of students at the forefront of the first World Press Freedom Day ever celebrated on United States soil.


Pacific Lutheran newspaper latest to report hundreds of copies stolen

(05/12/11 4:57pm)

As a journalist, you know you are doing something right if you make some of your readers angry. By that measurement, the staff of The Mooring Mast at Pacific Lutheran University must be doing superb work. Student editors at the Tacoma, Wash., school report that some 700 copies of the 1,500-circulation newspaper were swiped from their racks last Friday. As the Tacoma News-Tribune reported, the edition contained several potentially controversial items that might have motivated a thief, among them a story alluding to a flap from last season over allegations that softball coaches used abusive language to players.


UNC will appeal FERPA ruling ordering disclosure of athletic department records

(05/12/11 7:27pm)

The chancellor of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill said Thursday the school will appeal a judge’s decision and seek a stay in a public-records lawsuit filed by media outlets including the Daily Tar Heel student newspaper. The trial judge's April 19decision declared that phone records of university athletic department officials and parking tickets given to student athletes are not protected from disclosure by federal privacy law. In a press release, Chancellor Holden Thorp said the school is appealing because of student privacy rights, not because of a desire to conceal information about UNC's football program. “Our responsibility is to protect the privacy rights of all of our students, whether they’re on the football team, in the marching band or in a Chemistry 101 class.


Getting censored can be its own "mark of excellence"

(05/14/11 1:51pm)

One of the most common -- and most insidious -- rationalizations for censoring student publications is "poor quality." It's the last refuge for the censor who is out of excuses, because frankly, it's always possible to find a blemish on even the finest journalistic work. The idea that a newspaper needs to be "edited" or "proofread" by the college president or public-relations director for purposes of "teaching good journalism" has never stood up to the straight-face test.




More aware in Delaware? House bill would, finally, open university meetings and records

(05/19/11 4:57pm)

In 1743, Benjamin Franklin's Philadelphia Gazette published a notice announcing the arrival of a new public institution of higher learning: We are informed that there is a Free-School opened at the House of Mr. Alison in Chester County, for the Promotion of Learning, where all Persons may be instructed in the Languages and some other Parts of Polite Literature, without any Expences for their Education. In the centuries since Presbyterian clergyman Francis Alison opened the doors of a 12-student academy in his modest home two miles outside the village of New London, much about the University of Delaware has radically transformed. But this much has not: The public had no legal right to demand access to its meetings or records in 1743, and it still doesn't today. State Rep.


Arizona judge narrows scope of FERPA "education records" in Tucson shooter Loughner's case

(05/20/11 6:46pm)

An Arizona judge's decision letting the media obtain internal college correspondence about Tucson shooter Jared Loughner's record of erratic behavior adopts a sensibly limited view of the type of documents that can be concealed as "education records." Arizona Superior Court Judge Stephen C.


SPLC voices concern over Department of Education's proposed changes to FERPA 'directory information' disclosure

(05/23/11 4:48pm)

For the second time in three years, the U.S. Department of Education is revising its rules governing the confidentiality of student information under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). The revision getting the most attention -- both positive and negative -- would broaden the universe of government employees and contractors who can obtain student data for accountability purposes, including performance audits and "longitudinal data" studies (tracking the performance of a set of students as they progress through school). Less publicized is the Department's proposal to revamp the concept of "directory information." Directory information operates as an exception to FERPA confidentiality.


TRANSPARENCY TUESDAY: If it 'looks like, smells like, walks like, and quacks like a duck' -- then FOIA it!

(05/24/11 5:33pm)

The nonprofit lobbying organizations that represent city councils, school boards and other governmental entities are undergoing significant, and much-needed, scrutiny by state legislatures and in the courts. The disclosure that the (since-removed) head of the Iowa Association of School Boards received an under-the-table raise boosting her annual pay to an eye-popping $367,000 -- three times what the governor of Iowa makes -- prompted Iowa legislators to patch a loophole in state law and require the IASB to make its records and meetings public just as the Association's member school boards must. Associations representing school boards, superintendents and principals wield enormous influence over policy-making at the state level, and are able to trade on their "quasi-public" goodwill when it suits their strategic purposes.


Supreme Court's Camreta ruling raises one more barrier to students' constitutional claims

(05/26/11 7:45pm)

The courthouse door that a federal appeals court began closing on student litigants in 2007 inched a little more tightly shut on Thursday, when the Supreme Court avoided deciding whether child-abuse investigators violated the Fourth Amendment when they interrogated a 9-year-old potential victim. In the case, Camreta v.