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The 24/7 school day: Webcam lawsuit alleges new level of "creepiness"

(02/18/10 6:58pm)

From the '“OMG — If This Is True…' Department" come stories from the Associated Press and the Philaelphia Inquirer today that the parents of a student attending school just outside Philadelphia have filed a lawsuit on their son’s behalf alleging that school officials used Webcams installed on school-supplied laptop computers to spy on students while at home. The suit, filed in the U.S.


Preventing yearbook vandalism

(05/21/10 12:20pm)

As spring delivery yearbooks begin to arrive on high school campuses across the country, there will be — as happens every year — a tiny few that include unpleasant surprises (and it is a very “tiny” number relative to the thousands of yearbooks that will arrive exactly as expected.)  That’s because every year, it’s discovered that someone snuck some prank entry into the yearbook files — often after the pages had been signed off on by editors but before being sent to the printer, but sometimes simply by being sneaky and slipping it past the editors. Among those we’ve seen over the years: doctoring classmates' names, substituting an unflattering photo, inserted “coded” messages or profanity, rewriting a student bio or adding racist comments. Often the change is meant as a joke, but while their intent might have been to have some fun, there is nothing funny about the practice.


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

(08/31/10 4:13pm)

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.


AG Cuccinelli's go-ahead to search student cell-phones raises Fourth Amendment questions

(11/29/10 10:37am)

In the understandable haste to spare kids from the brutal impact of bullying, some school systems are pushing against constitutional boundaries to assert authority not only to seize students' cellphones but to read the messages stored on them. Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli waded into this controversy in a November 24 opinion issued at the request of a Virginia legislator, Robert Bell.


This month's SPLC podcast: Mississippi court allows broadcast of leaked footage shot inside juvenile prison

(02/28/11 12:21pm)

A persistent misperception that hampers journalists’ ability to do their jobs – one that many journalists themselves share – is that it’s against the law to publish images and information about minors without parental consent. One of the sources of this myth is journalists’ own practice of voluntarily concealing the identities of child subjects.


Pennsylvania court says it's okay for college to snoop on student email

(08/16/11 2:06am)

.  Surprise Yourself! — Elizabethtown College recruiting slogan A former student at Elizabethtown College was, indeed, probably surprised earlier this month after a Pennsylvania federal district court ruled that the school broke no rules when it hired an investigation service to snoop on his email account without his knowledge. In a


Former Colo. student publisher reaches $425k settlement with prosecutor, ending Howling Pig legal marathon

(12/12/11 12:59pm)

After an eight-year legal fight, the former student and publisher of the Howling Pig has reached a $425,000 settlement with former prosecutor Susan Knox. Thomas Mink was a student at the University of Northern Colorado in 2003 when police searched his home and confiscated his computer.


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.



Privacy group's challenge to Department of Education FERPA regs could hamper school accountability

(03/25/12 6:07pm)

Today's Atlanta Journal-Constitution features a multi-part investigative blockbuster that uses computer-assisted reporting to identify suspiciously sharp gains in student aptitude test scores in districts across the country -- gains that, in Atlanta, were found to be evidence of widespread cheating by administrators and teachers. According to the AJC findings, about 200 school districts nationwide -- including schools in Houston, St.



Oklahoma State demonstrates why universities shouldn't handle sexual assault claims

(12/15/12 2:06pm)

Pop quiz: should you tell the police if you think someone is responsible for a pattern of sexual assaults? Well, that ain't how they do things down Oklahoma State way. In the past, I've made the point that universities shouldn't be adjudicating sexual assault claims. Both because they're bad at it and because they can't actually take these people off the streets. Now, Oklahoma State has provided an object lesson, by showing how much can go wrong when you let a bunch of amateur investigators pretend to do the jobs of police and courts. Consider what happened at Oklahoma State after five different students reported sexual assaults by the same alleged perpetrator. You would assume that a disciplinary committee at an institution faced with multiple reports of sexual assault by one person might say to themselves, "Gee, the training video we watched didn't really prepare us to do the proper investigation of sexual assault at this scale, so maybe we ought to call police." Surely a bunch of amateurs, with no authority to subpoena, no ability to collect or test forensics--certainly they wouldn't attempt to identify and punish a possible serial attacker, would they?


Oklahoma State's FERPA fig leaf just got a lot smaller

(12/21/12 11:10am)

There's nowhere left for Oklahoma State University to hide. The man in charge of interpreting the federal student privacy law for more than two decades, LeRoy Rooker, told the Tulsa World in an interview this week that Oklahoma State was under no legal requirement to withhold information about campus sexual assaults from the police. Rooker's interpretation flatly contradicts Oklahoma State legal counsel Gary Clark's insistence that the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act ("FERPA") forbade the university from alerting campus police about a string of reported sex crimes by a 22-year-old OSU senior. The student, Nathan Cochran, was charged Dec.


New social media privacy protection laws take effect for the New Year

(01/01/13 1:38pm)

It's a happier new year in California, Michigan and Illinois, where the privacy of social networking sites gains new legal protection today. Effective January 1, it's illegal for employers in those three states to demand the login or password information for employees' or applicants' personal social media pages.