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Louisville student's sarcastic delivery-room blog births a bad First Amendment outcome

(06/01/13 4:17pm)

Posting on social media about stuff you see at work is risky business. When you're enrolled in college, it's downright hazardous. The University of Minnesota disciplined a mortuary science student who made flippant remarks on Facebook about the corpse she was assigned to dissect.

Q&A: Washington student editor discusses paper's in-depth focus on much-criticized community

(06/05/13 11:38am)

“Skyway is ghetto” — the provocative headline of Renton High School’s student newspaper led readers into an issue that worked to open their minds to the Seattle, Wash.-suburb Skyway as a whole, including the more pleasant parts that stereotypes often refuse to acknowledge. The 22-member Arrow staff put out an impressive 40-page May issue in which staff members explored the neighborhood — from its bus line to its park to its middle school.

Texas high school yearbook recalled after "Ugly Hoe" caption discovered

(06/03/13 7:53pm)

On the heels of another high school yearbook prank, Irving High School in Irving, Tex., recalled every copy of the 2012-13 yearbook last week after realizing that a student’s name had been changed to “Ugly Hoe” in a photo caption, the Dallas Observer reported. The person who changed the student’s name has not yet been identified, said Lesley Weaver, the school district's director of communications. “We can speculate, but we don’t know definitively,” Weaver said.

Going off-script: Can schools punish graduation speakers for voicing personal opinions?

(06/17/13 6:30pm)

A Texas graduation speaker goes off-script to complain about being forced to water down the religious message of his speech, and the school unplugs the microphone. A Florida commencement speaker pauses, and -- fearing a deviation from the prepared text -- his principal stops the speech and has him removed by security guards. An Oklahoma graduation speaker lets loose with an improvised wisecrack using the word "hell," and the school withholds her diploma. Each year around this time, some of America's top high school graduates get an unwanted parting "lesson" from their schools about the limits of the First Amendment. Although the Supreme Court famously told us in 1969 that students do not "shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate," the Court's subsequent pronouncement in Hazelwood School District v.

Virginia Tech student newspaper won't appeal dismissal in lawsuit seeking records about missing student

(06/21/13 4:02pm)

The case involving police records from a 1998 missing person investigation has been dismissed because the West Virginia State Police claim the records are part of an ongoing investigation. The Collegiate Times, Virginia Tech's student newspaper, wanted to access the police investigation file in 2009 when reporter Caleb Fleming was writing a story about the 10th anniversary of former Virginia Tech student Robert Kovack's disappearance.

Federal rulings in Florida, Michigan push back against Hazelwood's advancing tide

(06/25/13 9:00am)

When a student voices a personal opinion during school -- even during class -- that opinion is entitled to a high degree of First Amendment protection, and it may neither be proscribed nor punished absent concrete evidence that it provoked a disruptive reaction or was imminently likely to do so. That has been the law for some 44 years, since the Supreme Court decided Tinker v.

TRANSPARENCY TUESDAY: A century-old murder mystery provokes a modern legal battle over access to medical records

(06/25/13 8:08pm)

A century ago, a crusading Connecticut newspaper editor helped bring to justice the murderous owner of an old-age home, relying on death certificates that showed boarders at the facility had a suspicious habit of dying from poison. The story of Amy Archer Gilligan -- who died in a state mental hospital in 1962, having been incarcerated 43 years for murder -- inspired the (exceedingly) dark comedy play and film, "Arsenic and Old Lace." And now, it has inspired something more: A sensible ruling that harmonizes state freedom-of-information law with federal health-care privacy law. Privacy laws are widely mis-cited to obstruct journalists' access to public records, and none more flagrantly so than HIPAA, the federal health care privacy statute.