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At UCSD, the remedy for bad speech is ... no speech?

(03/01/10 3:41pm)

The SPLC's Adam Goldstein, in his debut blog on the Huffington Post's new collegiate media site, offers a provocative take on why the University of California-San Diego may be violating the First Amendment in its response to the racially offensive remarks of a few judgment-impaired campus agitators. Staff members of The Koala -- a no-holds-barred humor publication that perennially pushes the boundaries of good taste -- exacerbated campus tensions over some fraternity jokesters' racially themed cookout, by making sport of the controversy (including, reportedly, using the n-word) during a campus television broadcast. In response, the president of UCSD's student government, in an action ratified last week by  the Student Senate, impounded funding for all student media -- impacting some 30 media outlets, most entirely unconnected with The Koala -- to compel their editors to agree to a civil-speech code as a condition for continued funding. On Friday, University of California President Mark G.



"Timberland High School" becomes a national punchline. But there's nothing funny about hurting kids.

(03/29/10 1:30pm)

When high school administrators confiscate student newspapers or force students to change what they've written, the explanation is almost invariably some variety of, "You're making the school look bad." But at Missouri's Timberland High School, the most talented muckraker could not dredge up a bucket of sleaze muddying the school's reputation more than its own administrators have. First, the school massively overreacted and stripped the staff of the Wolf's Howl newspaper of their long-standing editorial independence over, of all things, the editors' decision to accept a local church's ad encouraging girls not to have abortions. Then, the school confiscated and refused to distribute an issue of the newspaper that violated Principal Winston Rogers' "zero tolerance for tattoos" policy -- because of a postage-stamp-sized image of a student's breast-cancer ribbon tattoo, memorializing a cherished friend.


An award no school should celebrate - Jefferson Center Muzzles "honor" a year of unnecessary censorship

(04/13/10 4:33pm)

To celebrate its namesake’s birthday, the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression at the University of Virginia today released the names of the recipients of the 2010 Jefferson Muzzles, a dubious "honor” awarded to those who have inhibited free speech and expression during the past year. Two of the Center's “honorees” limited student speech in public schools.


These tattoos rub off. The stain of censorship won't.

(04/15/10 2:42pm)

On Friday, hundreds of the brightest young people from across America will lend their cheeks and their forearms to send a message to the censors back in Wentzville, Missouri, that they aren't fooling anyone. Friday is "Timberland Tattoo Solidarity Day" at the National High School Journalism Convention in Portland, Oregon -- an event we hope is the last of its kind.


Saving education coverage - here's one solution that costs nothing, except trust

(06/22/10 8:48pm)

One-point-four percent. That is how much of their time and space leading news organizations are devoting to education coverage, according to scholars at The Brookings Institution who've studied how the decline in staffing at mainstream media outlets is impacting both the quantity and the quality of school news. The Brookings study, "Invisible: 1.4 Percent Coverage for Education is Not Enough," was released in December 2009 by a team headed by Darrell M.



Could funeral protesters' case give colleges greater authority over "offensive" speech?

(07/15/10 10:17pm)

On the surface, it does not appear that college students would have much at stake in a court case arising out of the attention-grabbing antics of Kansas clergyman Fred Phelps, whose repugnant anti-gay protests outside the funerals of American soldiers got him sued by the family of a slain Marine. But a coalition of free-speech advocates is telling the U.S.


Groups challenge Massachusetts 'harmful to minors' Internet speech law

(07/17/10 7:01am)

A coalition of free speech groups, publishers and booksellers filed suit July 13 against the State of Massachusetts to block enforcement of a law that would fine and/or imprison for up to ten years anyone who operates a Web site or transmits through e-mail, instant message, text message and other forms of online communication nudity or sexually related material deemed harmful to minors. Massachusetts’ attempt to craft such a law is the latest in a long line of efforts by  states and the federal government to punish those who post “harmful” material online.


Montana student recognized for resisting school's cover-up of athletes' grades

(07/23/10 4:34pm)

Will Meyer is grateful for the Student Free Press Award that he received in the Montana High School Better Newspaper contest, but the sting of the censorship battle that prompted his recognition remains. Meyer, who will begin his tenure as editor-in-chief of Bozeman High School's Hawk Talk in August,  was recognized for fighting to prevent administrative censorship of the newspaper, after the principal prohibited the staff from running the complete version of a story that listed the average GPAs of school athletic teams. In what Meyer called "one of the most interesting things the paper did all year," the administration stopped the newspaper from printing the average GPAs that fell below 3.0, which Meyer said only made the school look like it had something to hide. Meyer's experience highlights the abuse of administrative power that is all too common with prior-review regimes that are trying to maintain a polished image for their schools. But Meyer, who was sports editor at the time of the story's publication, said the staff didn't have an agenda when writing the article, and its publication wasn't intended toe embarrass the school.


McCormick protocol forces schools to confront the educational costs of censorship

(08/13/10 4:26pm)

On a snowy February day at Chicago's Cantigny Park, the McCormick Foundation brought together 50 experts -- teachers, lawyers, school administrators, students -- with a blank easel pad and a mission: to fix the flawed way that schools oversee what students publish. Far too many school districts impose retaliatory governance policies over student media in crisis-hysteria mode (or punishment mode) without careful deliberation.



Virginia alcohol advertising ban could be Supreme Court-bound

(08/26/10 8:55am)

Two college newspapers are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to reverse a federal appeals-court ruling that upheld a Virginia regulation restricting what advertisers can say about alcoholic beverages in student publications. Virginia Tech’s Collegiate Times and the University of Virginia’s Cavalier Daily, represented by counsel from the ACLU, filed a petition Aug.


Back to School Checklist: Evaluating your staff’s ‘media-law radar’

(08/31/10 7:13pm)

For better or worse, knowledge of the law continues to be an ever-growing part of the skill set required of all journalists, including students. One fairly quick -- and mostly painless/sometimes entertaining -- way to check how much your students/staff know about media law as they head back to the newsroom is to direct them to the SPLC's Test Your Knowledge of Student Media Law quiz series.





Parents challenge school's 'I Heart Boobies' ban in federal court

(11/15/10 3:22pm)

The parents of two middle school students sued a Pennsylvania school district Monday over its ban of the controversial "I Heart Boobies" cancer awareness bracelets. The suit alleges that the Easton Area School District violated the free expression rights of the two girls, identified in court documents as "B.H." and "K.M.," when it banned students from wearing the bracelets last month.


The Twelve Rules of Christmas — Plus One

(12/03/10 3:54pm)

Twas’ bout a month before Christmas when the calls first appeared. Student editors with the most frightening tales —  Oh Dear! They interview, they research, they write, write, write, write. But when it comes time to publish, they receive such a fright! The Principal, Headmaster, The Dean or Whomever has told them to stop, “Do not pull that Print Lever!” So what dastardly phrase, what horrible quip has led to this Dark Act of censorship? My mind goes a-racing as I await words most foul... The f-word?