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Student's "lewd" video about teacher provokes errant Wisconsin ruling applying "online harassment" law

(02/23/14 9:32pm)

Can derogatory remarks about a teacher be both constitutionally protected speech and also punishable as harassment? A Wisconsin appeals court appears to believe so. The Wisconsin Supreme Court is being asked to take up the case of "Kaleb K.," a 15-year-old student from Stevens Point, Wisc., who was arrested after posting a homemade rap on YouTube filled with profane, degrading language about his Spanish teacher. In September 2012, a juvenile-court judge declared Kaleb delinquent on the grounds of violating state criminal statutes against disorderly conduct and unlawful use of a computer communications system. In a ruling last November, the state Court of Appeals threw out the disorderly conduct charge, finding that Kaleb's lyrics, though distasteful, were not threatening, obscene or otherwise outside the boundaries of the First Amendment. But the court then went on to uphold the conviction under the state's computer-harassment law, which makes it a misdemeanor if a speaker "sends a message to [a] person on an electronic mail or other computerized communication system" that contains lewd or profane language "with the intent to harass, annoy, or offend." It's possible to harass someone even with a constitutionally protected message if the speech is delivered in an especially harassing manner.


Questionable state of campus mental-health services deserves journalists' scrutiny

(02/13/14 8:25pm)

Recent media attention, lawsuits and Department of Education regulatory actions have spotlighted what, for many years, has been a shameful secret on campuses across the country -- that the default response to discovering a student was suicidally depressed was expulsion. In a searing recent look at the inadequacies of colleges' response to mental illness, Newsweek's Katie J.M.


Does legalized censorship make students less likely to criticize school administrators? One study suggests "yes."

(02/09/14 5:28pm)

Student newspapers in states with legal protection against censorship publish many more editorials than those in states lacking protective laws, and their editorials are more likely to be critical of school policies. That's the takeaway from a recently published study in the Maine Law Review by an attorney and former Iowa school-board member who concludes that "a free student press has far-reaching positive consequences that reverberate through the public schools and beyond." Author Tyler Buller's article is the most comprehensive nationwide look at whether state laws counteracting the Supreme Court's 1988 ruling in Hazelwood School District v.


Try this at home: Are campus debit-card agreements deepening student debt?

(02/16/14 9:32pm)

With the annual cost of getting an education topping $18,000 last year at a four-year public college — and more than $40,000 at a private school — inquisitive journalists are the best "consumer protection" cash-strapped students have. Here's a consumer-protection story begging to be localized by college media... On Feb.



Crimson White, Daily Bruin roll out new records request trackers

(02/26/14 10:46am)

Mazie Bryant and Jillian Beck — editors of The Crimson White and The Daily Bruin, respectively — know how frustrating it can be to get answers out of their universities. So after running into repeated reporting roadblocks, they’ve decided to call attention to their universities’ public records responsiveness by making their records requests more transparent. In newly debuted trackers, The Crimson White and The Daily Bruin now publicize details of the requests they’ve submitted to their institutions.


California high school journalists honored after invoking state shield law

(02/26/14 6:55pm)

A trio of student journalists who fought to protect confidential sources while investigating events surrounding a peer’s suicide earned recognition this month from the Northern California chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. The team from Saratoga High School’s The Saratoga Falcon — Samuel Liu, Sabrina Chen and Cristina Curcelli — were honored in the high school category of the James Madison Freedom of Information Awards.