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TRANSPARENCY TUESDAY: Lifting the lid on legislative lobbying largesse

(06/05/12 1:56pm)

Two recent news items reinforce the importance of keeping track of what colleges and universities are spending on lobbying at the state Capitol -- and not just "how much," but also "why." Item 1: Sometimes it's a whole lot of money. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that the University of Pittsburgh ramped up its lobbying activity -- spending $113,000 in the first three months of 2012 alone -- in an attempt to fend off massive cuts in state aid proposed by Gov.

Minnesota Supreme Court rules against college student in off-campus speech case

(06/19/12 7:36pm)

Update: The Court has ruled against Amanda Tatro, holding that "a university may regulate student speech on Facebook that violates established professional conduct standards," where the restrictions on speech are "narrowly tailored and directly related to established professional conduct standards." They declined to apply either Hazelwood or Tinker. SEE OUR NEWS FLASH FOR DETAILS ON THE DECISION ------------------- We're expecting a significant court decision tomorrow morning (Wednesday) on the First Amendment rights of college and university students, particularly when posting about their schools on social media. The case involves Amanda Tatro, a former mortuary sciences student at the University of Minnesota who posted comments on Facebook about "playing" with a cadaver in her anatomy class and wanting to stab someone with an embalming tool.

University of Minnesota ruling plows new legal ground -- straight across the First Amendment

(06/24/12 3:21pm)

There's a pivotal scene in the first theatrical "X-Files" film where David Duchovny's Agent Fox Mulder, idling at a crossroads as he ponders which way to turn in pursuit of a fleeing suspect, instinctively stomps the pedal and barrels straight ahead across unpaved prairie. Plowing your own road is a thrilling move -- for a fictional hero in a sci-fi thriller.

Amanda Tatro, who fought free speech battle against the University of Minnesota, dead at 31

(06/26/12 12:40pm)

Amanda Tatro, who less than a week ago lost a high-profile First Amendment case in front of the Minnesota Supreme Court, was found dead in her apartment Tuesday morning, the Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s Office confirmed. She was 31. A friend of Tatro’s told a City Pages blog that her husband had found her lying on the couch unresponsive when he woke up Tuesday morning.

High school senior reflects on controversy, suspension over satirical "anti-Obama" Top 20 list

(06/12/12 4:40pm)

A racist, a bigot, a white supremacist — these are just a few of the names 18-year-old Trevor May was branded with after he penned a list titled “Top Twenty Reasons Why Obama Should Not Get Re-Elected” for the Sprayberry High School monthly student newspaper. His true identity?

Louisiana bullying bill declares "making faces" and "shunning" grounds for discipline

(06/06/12 8:18pm)

In the ebbing days of their legislative session, Louisiana legislators approved a sweeping ban on "cyberbullying" that raises significant constitutional questions because it extends to such behavior as "making faces," "spreading untrue rumors" and "shunning." Senate Bill 764 by Sen.

Missouri newspaper settles lawsuit with school district after six-month battle for public information

(06/14/12 11:40am)

UPDATE 6/15: The Springfield News-Leader settled a suit with the Republic School District on Thursday, ending a dispute over information about another lawsuit, settled in November, involving a student and her family who claimed the middle school did not protect the girl from sexual harassment and rape during school hours. According to the News-Leader, documents reveal the district paid $185,000 -- $122,315 to the girl and her family, and the remaining money toward attorney fees. -------- A southwest Missouri newspaper and the Republic School District are working to settle a public records lawsuit and reveal the details of a November settlement over student sexual abuse allegations, the newspaper’s attorney said Wednesday. The Springfield News-Leader filed a public records lawsuit June 4 for information regarding the district’s settlement with the student, particularly the amount the district paid and the minutes from any meeting where the settlement was discussed. The News-Leader’s suit argued the district is required to release the information under the Missouri Sunshine Law. “We believe that the applicable Sunshine Law statute requires disclosures of the information for obvious reasons – the taxpayers have a right to know how the school is conducting its business,” attorney Bryan Wade told The News-Leader. Wade confirmed the district had responded to the suit, and the two entities are negotiating an agreement.

Ind. middle schooler settles 'boobies' bracelet lawsuit, still won't be allowed to wear it

(06/14/12 5:26pm)

An Indiana middle school student has settled his free speech lawsuit over an “I (Heart) Boobies” breast cancer awareness bracelet, but will not be allowed to wear it. The Twin Lakes School Corporation and “L.G.,” an eighth grader who was told he could not wear the bracelet, have decided to drop the case, according to school district attorney Tom Wheeler. No money will change hands as a result of the settlement, he said, and the district’s policy will not change. Wheeler said the bracelets cannot be worn in the eighth grade or below, but may be worn in high school as long as they don’t cause a disruption.

Tide rolled -- Eleventh Circuit's trademark ruling lets artist continue using Alabama sports logos, images

(06/15/12 10:55am)

A federal appeals court's ruling in favor of a commercial artist who sells drawings of iconic University of Alabama sports moments is a helpful reminder that trademark law rarely can restrict the journalistic or artistic use of corporate insignias. Monday's ruling from the 11th U.S.

Seattle college paper returns to print four years after censorship controversy

(06/15/12 3:17pm)

Four years after its print edition was canceled, The New City Collegian is back in business — for one day, at least. On Tuesday, the student newspaper at Seattle Central Community College published its first print edition since 2008, when it found itself at the center of a national censorship debate that resulted in the elimination of all funding for the newspaper and the resignation of the faculty adviser. The newspaper has been operating as an online-only publication since that time.

Supreme Court refuses to create new First Amendment exception for lying

(06/28/12 4:30pm)

The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday ruled 6-3 that the Stolen Valor Act, which makes it a crime to falsely claim receipt of military accolades, violates the First Amendment. The decision was a plurality, with a majority of the justices ruling the law unconstitutional, but two groups approaching the decision with different reasoning.