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Layshock, J.S. and MySpace justice - Third Circuit takes a half-step toward clarifying school authority over online speech

(06/16/11 10:27am)

Young people's near-universal ability to publish online -- anytime, anywhere -- has provoked a flurry of legislative responses and judicial pronouncements, many of them blurring the boundaries that once confined schools' disciplinary authority within the proverbial "schoolhouse gate." Those blurry boundaries are in somewhat clearer focus today as a result of a pair of rulings by the 3rd U.S.

Indiana School District fights for right to be slumber party police

(06/17/11 8:13pm)

In T.V. v. Smith-Green Community School District, a pair of students are suing their school after the school removed them from extracurricular activities because the students posted pictures of themselves with penis-shaped lollipops at a slumber party. In a supplemental brief filed with the federal district court on June 10, the school makes arguments totally irreconcilable with precedent or common sense.

SUNY-Brockport editor wins SPJ recognition for weathering intimidation

(07/19/11 9:34am)

A New York college editor who kept up his fight for public records from a hostile student government that threatened him with legal action has won a national First Amendment prize recognizing his tenacity. The Society of Professional Journalists named Bill Matthias the winner of its annual Robert D.G.

Marshall student journalists honored for persistence in pursuing police records

(08/03/11 5:39pm)

Two college journalists at West Virginia's Marshall University have won the Society of Professional Journalists' prestigious "Sunshine Award" for exposing the existence of an off-the-books set of campus police reports separate from the ones made available for public review. The SPJ will recognize Samantha Turley and Marcus Constantino for a series of October 2010 stories in their campus newspaper, The Parthenon, documenting that the Marshall University Police Department selectively withheld some crime reports from a log provided to student journalists. The existence of "off-the-books crimes" came to light as journalists from The Parthenon inquired into widespread rumors about a sexual assault in a campus dorm (a complaint that police ultimately decided they lacked the evidence to pursue). Any report to police of a serious crime such as rape should show up in the daily crime log available for public inspection, but the log provided to The Parthenon made no mention of it. Turley and Constantino will receive their award at SPJ's national convention Sept.

Federal court says Nev. student's instant messages no laughing matter

(08/17/11 1:47pm)

At a comedy club, a bad joke can get you booed. At school, a bad joke can get you expelled. Landon Wynar was a student at Nevada’s Douglas County High School in 2008 when he and a friend had several Internet conversations in which he discussed shooting schoolmates and compared himself to Seung-Hui Cho, the gunman behind the 2007 Virginia Tech massacre.

ACLU claims Calif. district allowed "prolonged, coercive interrogations" of student journalists

(09/08/11 3:56pm)

The Davis Joint Unified School District in California is facing criticism after two high school journalists were pulled out of class and questioned by police. Alana de Hinojosa, editor in chief of The HUB newspaper at Davis High School, wrote an article last spring exploring the artistic value and criminal implications of graffiti.

Why Time Magazine is wrong about New Jersey's cyberbullying law

(09/12/11 12:54pm)

In the latest edition of Time Magazine, author and Yale law professor Adam Cohen presents an overly simplistic portrayal of New Jersey's new "cyberbullying" law as a "model" for the nation. Cohen's method of analysis, which typifies the reasoning of many state legislators, can be reduced to this: "Bullying is a big problem.

S.D.-area school officials lose jobs after raiding student extracurricular accounts

(10/05/11 12:38pm)

One of the most distressing calls we get on the Student Press Law Center's hotline is some variation of this one: "We came back from summer break and discovered that all the money in our yearbook account is gone, and nobody will tell us where it went." Cash-strapped schools undoubtedly are tempted by any pot of money, even one that is earmarked for a student organization, in their desperation to pay the bills.

As "douchebags" case ends, Supreme Court continues to mull off-campus speech rights

(10/31/11 5:19pm)

It’s the end of the road for Doninger v. Niehoff. The Supreme Court denied Monday the certiorari petition filed by Avery Doninger’s attorneys, effectively ending three years of legal wrangling in a period that saw the rise of a host of off-campus, online student expression court cases. Attorney Jon Schoenhorn called the news a “disappointing end” to the case but even more concerning for the larger precedent. “My biggest concern is that it’s going to chill the free expression of thousands of students because of an erroneous reading of it by school officials,” Schoenhorn said. As a junior at Connecticut’s Lewis B.

Report: The road to journalism's future runs straight through college campuses

(11/06/11 9:30pm)

Students aren't the future of journalism. They're the present. That's the bottom line of a report from the New America Foundation, a public-policy think-tank chaired by Google's Eric Schmidt that includes prominent journalistic thinkers such as The Atlantic's James Fallows among its leadership. The report, "Shaping 21st Century Journalism," concludes that America's 483 (or so) journalism schools must fill the gap left by dwindling professional news staffs by refocusing their efforts on the creation of content for public consumption.

Western Washington University senators reject proposal on newspaper archive 'takedowns'

(11/10/11 6:56pm)

The student senate at Western Washington University on Wednesday voted down a resolution designed to compel student media to change online archives if alumni found content that damaged their professional reputation. Last week, the student senate heard from members of WWU’s student media arguing the proposal infringed on their First Amendment rights and was otherwise ineffective because student government does not oversee student publications. Of 11 senators, none voted for the proposal.

Supreme Court shows interest in case of student disciplined for off-campus MySpace group

(11/15/11 5:54pm)

The Supreme Court appears to be showing initial interest in Kowalski v. Berkeley County Schools, one of a slew of off-campus speech cases awaiting its consideration. The court requested a response Monday from the West Virginia school district to the certiorari petition filed on behalf of Kara Kowalski, the court docket shows. Kowalski, a former Musselman High School student, was suspended in 2005 for creating a MySpace group that school officials claimed was intended to ridicule another student. The title of the webpage was “S.A.S.H.,” which Kowalski said was an acronym for “Students Against Sluts Herpes.” But posts by other students on the page quickly devolved into disparaging comments about a specific classmate. The 4th U.S.