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It's April Fools Day on Bizarro Planet -- school administrators turn First Amendment true-believers

(10/17/11 9:27am)

The dictionary defines "chutzpah" as "unmitigated effrontery or impudence; gall; audacity; nerve." Mr. Webster, meet the South Carolina Association of School Administrators. While school administrator groups across the country stubbornly resist (and often actively oppose) extending free-speech rights to the students and teachers under their supervision, their brethren in South Carolina yield to no one in their First Amendment zealotry. When it helps them keep secrets from the public. The Association has convinced a state-court judge to exempt it from complying with South Carolina's Freedom of Information Act ("FOIA"), on the grounds that opening its records to the public would compromise the organization's right to formulate its political positions privately.

BREAKING: Univ. of Wisconsin – Milwaukee newspaper announces lawsuit against former student government officials for theft

(12/11/11 10:56pm)

Student journalists at The UWM Post at the University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee announced late Sunday they plan to sue two former student government officials, alleging they participated in the theft and destruction of 800 copies of the newspaper in November October. In a news story, the paper said it's own investigation revealed former Student Association President Alex Kostal directed his office manager to steal the newspapers.

Miss. student settles lawsuit after being excluded from yearbook because of her tuxedo

(12/13/11 4:04pm)

The Mississippi teenager whose yearbook portrait was removed because she wore a tuxedo will have her photo displayed alongside her classmates’ in the school library, as part of a settlement reached with the school district last week. The Copiah County School District also will scrap its portrait policy that required male students to wear tuxedos and female students to wear drapes for their official yearbook photos, the ACLU of Mississippi announced. Instead, all students will don graduation caps and gowns for their photos. Ceara Sturgis, a 2010 graduate of the Wesson Attendance Center, filed a discrimination lawsuit “on the basis of sex and on the basis of sex stereotypes” against the eastern Mississippi school district in August 2010. Sturgis, who prefers more masculine clothing, felt “uncomfortable” wearing the drape, designed to mimic a dress, in her photo.

University of Missouri's restrictive classroom recording policy raises constitutional flags

(01/15/12 2:53pm)

The University of Missouri, home to one of the nation's highest-rated journalism schools, is now also home to one scary disciplinary rule threatening the rights of student journalists. In a December 20 memo -- funny how policies impacting students' rights always seem to be enacted while students are away on holiday -- Missouri's interim president, Stephen J.

Supreme Court's online speech no-decision counts as a "win" for student First Amendment rights

(01/18/12 6:57pm)

The announcement that the Supreme Court will not hear any case this term involving the First Amendment rights of students punished for off-campus speech on social networking sites left one thing firmly established: That the law is not firmly established. That is not altogether a bad place to be. Considering the alternative. In 2007, the Supreme Court allowed itself to be swayed by sympathy for a put-upon high school principal in Juneau, Alaska, who made the ill-advised decision to snatch away a humorous banner that one of her students was waving at an off-campus event.

Wild horses drag a federal appeals court to a generous First Amendment interpretation

(02/24/12 4:43pm)

Laura Leigh's "newsroom" is a dusty Nevada prairie, which she traverses in a battered 1998 Ford pickup in search of images for a magazine and blog focusing on the federal culling of wild horse populations. As described in a colorful Las Vegas Review-Journal profile, Leigh has become a persistent, if affectionately tolerated, antagonist to the Bureau of Land Management and those who run its wild horse capture program.

From the "Right Not to Be Annoyed" Department ... where do you go to report annoying legislation?

(03/28/12 7:24pm)

In their never-ending quest to make Connecticut a less annoying place, state legislators -- apparently having solved unemployment, crime and school funding -- have trained their sights on annoying speech. A bill introduced March 22 by the Senate Judiciary Committee -- which is up for a hearing in that committee Thursday -- would create the new misdemeanor criminal offense of "Electronic Harassment." (Note to Dave Barry: "Electronic Harassment" would be an exceptional name for a band.) A person would be guilty of the crime of "Electronic Harassment" under the following conditions: (1) Transmitting information over any electronic medium (anything from radio to the Web to texting), (2) that is based on a person's "actual or perceived traits or characteristics," (3) that causes a person "substantial embarrassment or humiliation within an academic or professional community," and (4) is done with an intent to "annoy" or "alarm" the person. Read that carefully, and think about how much First Amendment real estate it covers. For example ... how about this Al Franken column, "Rush Limbaugh is still a big fat idiot." Transmitted electronically?

Watch where you chalk, 'cause the courts might balk -- is sidewalk graffiti protected speech?

(04/17/12 5:13am)

Watch where you walk 'cause the sidewalks talk. And you can't keep a secret from the ground beneath you. Step very lightly on the earth below. Or before you know it everyone will know. --"Sidewalk Talk," Madonna (1984) If you're arrested for chanting a political message on a public sidewalk, that's a slam-dunk violation of your constitutional rights.

Judge finds third Nebraska student's rights were not violated in "RIP" dispute

(04/23/12 3:37pm)

A federal judge ruled in favor of the Millard Public School District on Monday, after a jury was unable to decide whether the district violated a student’s First Amendment rights when she was disciplined for wearing “RIP” clothing. Cassie, Dan and Nick Kuhr were suspended for wearing “Julius RIP” clothing and accessories following the death of a friend in gang-related violence.

Campus preacher prevails in 1st Amendment challenge to Tenn. college's permit rules

(04/28/12 5:02pm)

A public university can't make a speaker wait 14 days for a permit to give a talk or distribute literature on campus sidewalks, or give notice of the topics he intends to address, a federal appeals court ruled this week. John McGlone, an evangelical Christian preacher from Kentucky, brought suit against Tennessee Technical University after being told to leave campus property during two April 2009 visits because he had not complied with TTU's speaking permit rules. A federal district court threw out McGlone's case.

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.