Fall 1999

High school censorship increases, 1998 SPLC legal requests indicate

VIRGINIA - Censorship calls to the Student Press Law Center from public high school journalists rose for the fourth straight year. According to the center, 321 high school student journalists or their advisers contacted it in 1997 for legal help concerning a censorship matter. Read more


\nA story on page 22 of the Spring 1999 issue of the Report\nincorrectly reported that the Arkansas House of Representatives\npassed a bill that would have guaranteed freedom of expression\nrights to public college students. Read more

Testing for Compliance

There are two sides to a university campus. There are the colorful brochures handed out by the public relations office, and even the daily facade of a safe environment. But there is another side that administrators often do not want students to know about-the assault, the theft, the harassment. Read more

Reporter wants more information in murder case at Louisiana university

\nLOUISIANA - A police incident report on public relations\nstationery. A missing affidavit. Read more

Group proposes new crime reporting regulations

\nWASHINGTON, D.C. - Counselors will not necessarily have to\nreport rape and other sexual assaults as part of annual campus\ncrime statistics, and police may leave out details in their logs\nto protect victim confidentiality. After months of debate and compromise, those were the big conclusions\nagreed upon by representatives of various higher education constituency\ngroups working with the Department of Education. They have met with DOE officials for several months, attempting\nto compromise on what should be considered mandatory in a university's\nannual crime statistics and daily police logs that federal law\nnow requires be made public. Two main issues under debate were whether campus counselors\nshould report sexual assaults as crime statistics, and if campus\npolice will be allowed to leave out information in the police\nlogs in order to protect victim condfidentiality. "Basically, schools cannot avoid reporting the crime althogether,\nbut most only leave out the minimum amount of information necessary\nto protect the victim's identity, such as a dorm room number,"\nthe Society of Professional Journalists' Carolyn Carlson said\nin an e-mail. Counselors will be permitted to release statistics of students\nwho report rapes or sexual assault for inclusion in the campus'\nannual statistics, although they will not be required to do so.\nBut that is only if the school has a procedure for anonymous reports,\nwhich they are not required to have. Read more

The Price is Right?

\nWISCONSIN - If it were a sports event, the cheering sections\nwould look about as lopsided as those at the women's World Cup\nsoccer final between the U.S. Read more

Freedom Fighter

\nKENTUCKY - When Charles Kincaid enrolled at Kentucky State\nUniversity six years ago, he was not planning to graduate with\na lawsuit accompanying the diploma in his hand. A U.S. Read more

Student punished for displaying poster

\nCALIFORNIA - The American Civil Liberties Union is suing\nthe University of California at San Diego for punishing a student\nfor displaying a political poster containing a four-letter expletive\nin his dormitory window. Freshman Ryan Benjamin Shapiro was ordered to perform three\nhours of community service in January after he posted a handmade\nsign that read, "Fuck Netanyahu and Pinochet" in his\nwindow. Read more

Ohio expression bill heads to Senate

\nOHIO - The Ohio Senate Education Committee passed a bill\nJune 15 that would limit the restriction of expression at Ohio's\npublic universities. Read more

Worcester's editor resigns after students, faculty protest editorial

\nMASSACHUSETTS - When Alesha Itella took on the job of editor\nin chief of the student newspaper at Worcester State College,\nshe did not expect to find herself in an uphill battle with her\nschool over First Amendment principles. Read more

Auburn honors newsletter discards student editorials

\nALABAMA - Students at Auburn University's Honors College\nwill no longer be using the college's official newsletter to voice\ntheir opinions. Read more

Federal judge overturns University of Texas leafleting ban

\nTEXAS - The University of Texas at Austin cannot ban outsiders\nfrom distributing leaflets at an off-campus university building,\nbut the university can halt leaflet distribution at an on-campus\ncommon area, a federal district judge ruled in 1998. Four members of an environmental activist group brought suit\nagainst the university, alleging their constitutional rights were\nviolated when they were prohibited from passing out leaflets to\npeople attending a privately sponsored convention held at a university-owned,\noff-campus center in 1996. In the court's decision, Judge Sam Sparks ruled that the inability\nto clearly distinguish between the city-owned sidewalk outside\nthe center and the center's property itself requires that the\nentire paved area outside the center be considered a public forum\nfor speech purposes. Sparks also ruled, however, that the university could bar leafleters\nfrom distributing literature at an on-campus plaza area, saying\nthat the school had legitimate concerns that opening its West\nMall area to outsiders could significantly increase the chances\nof unwanted litter and disruption.n center be considered a public\nforum for speech purposes. Read more

Thefts hit 2 Alabama schools

\nALABAMA - The entire 2,000-copy press run of an edition\nof the Aumnibus, the student newspaper of Auburn University\nat Montgomery was stolen after being distributed around campus\nin April. Aumnibus editor Joseph Patton reported the theft to\nthe campus police immediately, who falsely informed him that because\nthe paper was offered for free, he could not take any legal action. "I basically got the impression that they never really\ndid much," Patton said. Read more

Michigan House delays anti-theft bill

\nMICHIGAN - A bill that would have made the theft of free\nnewspapers a punishable offense in Michigan is on hold after failing\nto make it out of a House committee last year. House Bill 5536 provides that individuals who take 100 or more\ncopies of a free publication could face a maximum jail term of\n90 days and fines of up to $100. Rep. Read more

Adviser sues university after firing

\nGEORGIA - Fort Valley State University's former newspaper\nadviser has filed a federal civil lawsuit against the university\nand three of its administrators. Read more

Blue Springs student reconsiders stance

\nMISSOURI - High school student Jon David was adamant about\ngetting his newspaper's adviser back when she was fired last summer. David and fellow students filed a federal class action lawsuit\nagainst the school district, claiming their First Amendment rights\nwere violated by the attempt to censor their newspaper, The\nJaguar Journal. They spoke to the media, praising Valerie\nHalas as an adviser and demanding her return. "She taught us about real journalism," David said\nin the March Teacher magazine. Read more

Schools react to Columbine

\nStudents everywhere are feeling the ramifications of the April\nshooting at Columbine High School that left 14 students and one\nteacher dead. Read more

Students fight censorship with cash

After their principal censored two stories in the literary magazine, students at Crescent Valley High School in Corvallis raised enough money to publish it on their own. Read more

Editor loses fight to publish ad

NORTH CAROLINA - The editor of a student newspaper in\nRaleigh lost his fight to publish advertisements from a gay and\nlesbian support group and a church-sponsored youth group in April\nafter the Wake County Board of Education upheld his principal's\ndecision to censor the ads. Matt Williams, a senior at Enloe High School and editor of\nthe Eagle's Eye, said he fought the principal's decision\nbecause other schools in the area allowed churches to advertise\nin their newspapers. "The decision to fight came because I saw inconsistencies\nin what the school board said could be allowed and couldn't be\nallowed," Williams said. He added that his principal, Lloyd Gardner, had previously\nallowed the school newspaper to publish the ad from the church-sponsored\nyouth group. Williams said it was not until he wanted to run the ad from\nthe N.C. Read more

Student suing school will have his day in court

\nOREGON - In a ruling that could have broad implications for\nstudents who sue their schools, an appeals court denied a school\ndistrict's motion to dismiss the appeal of a high school student\nwho graduated while his lawsuit against the district was pending. The Bend-La Pine School District argued that Chris Pangle's\nsuit against the district should be dismissed because he had graduated\nand there was no longer an ongoing conflict between the parties. But Jonathan Hoffman, Pangle's attorney, maintained that because\nPangle was seeking retrospective relief-he was suing the school\ndistrict for past acts it had committed against him-the case was\nstill relevant. The Oregon Court of Appeals sided with Pangle. Read more

Superintendent labels art offensive

CALIFORNIA - Despite a 23-year-old law protecting student\nexpression, censorship in the golden state has not become a thing\nof the past. At Maricopa High School, yearbooks featuring artwork created\nby the yearbook adviser, who is also an art teacher at the school,\nwere censored after the school board deemed one of the works offensive. The work was a picture drawn by adviser Deborah Leavitt at\nthe beginning of the Persian Gulf War. Read more

Student expression bills die

\nSupporters of the high school student press did not have much\nto cheer about this spring as state legislative sessions drew\nto a close. Of the four bills designed to protect the student press that\nwere introduced, none became law. Bills died this year in Connecticut, Missouri and Illinois,\nand legislation introduced in Nebraska is being held over until\nnext year. In Connecticut, legislation intended "to prevent\nchallenges to or public criticism of student journalists who publish\npolitical or controversial material" died after supporters\nrejected a watered-down version of the bill. Read more

Newseum honors high school journalists

\nVIRGINIA - The Newseum, an interactive news museum in Arlington,\npresented its second annual Courage in Student Journalism Awards\nin May to three students and two recent graduates from Florida\nhigh schools. Brady Ward and Mario Weber, June 1998 graduates of Coral Gables\nSenior High School, and Isabel Eisner, Joey Ruiz and Katie Townsend,\nstudents at Miami Palmetto Senior High School, were recognized\nfor their efforts in convincing the school board in Dade County,\nFla., to retain its exemplary student press guidelines. Read more

Jury rules for school in student free speech case

\nNEW YORK - After four years of litigation, a student who\nsued his school district, several police officers and his city\nfor violating his First and Fourth Amendment rights lost his case\nwhen a jury ruled against him in January. Josh Herzog and his parents, Miriam and Jeffrey Herzog, filed\na civil suit against the Monticello school district, three Monticello\npolice officers and the village of Monticello after Monticello\nHigh School administrators suspended Josh for distributing an\nunderground newspaper. Police, who were notified by the school, searched the Herzogs'\nhome and arrested Josh for "inciting a riot." The criminal\ncharges were later dropped, but the suspension was not. Read more

Student reaches settlement with school, principal

\nNEW JERSEY - A student who sued his principal and school\nfor violating his First Amendment free speech rights settled his\ncase out of court. Read more

Administrators suspend student for e-mail

\nPENNSYLVANIA - The number one reason school administrators\nsuspended student Zachariah Paul? Read more

Parental permission required

NEW JERSEY - Students at most high schools have to get\ntheir parents' permission to go on field trips or take sex ed.\nStudents at Madison High School need their parents' permission\nto read the student literary magazine. The staff of the literary magazine, Glyphs, decided\nto require students who wanted to buy copies of the magazine to\nturn in permission slips signed by their parents as a compromise\nwith the principal, who confiscated all of the copies of the literary\nmagazine because of two poems containing the words "f--g"\nand "f--d." The words appeared with dashes in the actual\nmagazine. Read more

Survey reveals dwindling support for student press

\nVIRGINIA - Americans' support for student free press rights\nis waning, according to a recent survey. The State of the First Amendment, a poll conducted by The Freedom\nForum First Amendment Center and the Center for Survey Research\nand Analysis at the University of Connecticut, reveals diminishing\nsupport for all of the First Amendment freedoms when compared\nto a 1997 survey, but most notably the freedom of the press. More than half of the respondents said they believe the press\nhas too much freedom, and 60 percent said high school students\nshould not be free to print stories about controversial issues\nwithout school officials' approval. Paul McMasters, the First Amendment ombudsman at the Freedom\nForum, acknowledged that it is difficult to establish trends over\na two-year period, but attributed the decline in support for the\nFirst Amendment to Americans' desire to have more calm and security\nin their lives. "They think the best way to do this is by shutting other\npeople up," he said. McMasters said the best way to increase the public's support\nfor the First Amendment is through education. "The people in our poll tell us the educational system\nis doing a bad job of teaching them about their freedoms, particularly\nFirst Amendment freedoms," McMasters said. Read more

Students hire lawyer to keep newspaper

\nCONNECTICUT - After their adviser quit over a coded message\nthey slipped into the school newspaper, two high school students\nhave hired a lawyer to force the school to find a new adviser\nbefore the beginning of the school year. Brendan Sullivan and Ben Popik were set to be the editors in\nchief of Simsbury High School's student newspaper, The Forum,\nnext year. Read more

Battle brews over alcohol ads in college media

\nPENNSYLVANIA - A federal judge rejected a college newspaper's\nchallenge to a state ban on alcohol advertising in school publications\nin July. The Pitt News, a University of Pittsburgh student newspaper,\nargued that the state's ban on advertising was unconstitutional\nbecause it violated its First Amendment free speech and free press\nrights. Read more

Alumni group, university wrestle over control of magazine

\nNEW JERSEY - There is a growing struggle between university\nofficials and a group of alumni, faculty and students at Rutgers\nUniversity over who controls the alumni magazine. The Rutgers 1000 Alumni Council wants to place an ad in the\nmagazine urging the school to reduce its emphasis on athletics,\nbut university officials are refusing to publish the ad, arguing\nthat Rutgers Magazine does not accept "advocacy advertising." In a case that could potentially affect the ability of college\nnewspaper editors to reject advertising, the American Civil Liberties\nUnion of New Jersey is suing the university for rejecting the\ngroup's ad. Richard Seclow, a 1951 Rutgers graduate and retired advertising\nexecutive who is a spokesman for the group, said Rutgers 1000\nhas a First Amendment right to publish its ad in the magazine. "Constitutionally, [Rutgers Magazine] has the obligation\nto publish [the ad] under the First Amendment," said Seclow.\n"It also has the obligation to let the alumni know ... that\nwe have a dissenting view on what we call the professionalization\nof sports at Rutgers." Rutgers 1000 opposes the school's joining the Big East sports\nconference and its renewed efforts to improve big-time sports,\nsuch as football and basketball, at the university. Rutgers University officials declined to comment on the case,\nbut David R. Read more

Southern Illinois reporter defeats subpoena

ILLINOIS - The student newspaper at Southern Illinois\nUniversity at Carbondale defeated a May attempt by an Illinois\npublic defender to gain access to a student reporter's notes.\nThe attorney was hoping to subpoena notes taken by the reporter\nwhile covering the murder of a Southern Illinois University student. "The public defender essentially wanted to show someone\non the witness stand was lying," said Amy Gherna, an attorney\nat Craven and Thornton law firm in Springfield, Ill., who represented\nthe student newspaper. Read more

Art colleges' settlement will stay sealed

\nGEORGIA - The Georgia Supreme Court ruled in March that the\npublic will not have access to a confidential 1996 settlement\nagreement between the Savannah College of Art and Design and the\nSchool of Visual Arts. Read more

Gathering news, legally

Click here for the updated legal guide Read more

Court rules presidential searches closed

\nMICHIGAN - The state supreme court ruled in June that a\npublic university's presidential selection process need not be\nconducted in open meetings under state law. The Lansing State Journal and the Detroit News\nfiled suit against Michigan State University in 1993 after officials\ndenied access to that year's search proceedings. In a 5-2 decision issued on June 15, the court decided in Federated\nPublications v. Read more

Michigan editor disturbed by closed search

\nMICHIGAN - For reporters at Eastern Michigan University's\nEastern Echo, the state supreme court's June decision to\nclose a public university's presidential search proceedings will\nhave an immediate impact. Now EMU's candidates for university president too will remain\na mystery until the Board of Regents' choice is set in stone.\nAnd then it will be too late to voice any objections. "The general public is going to know nothing about this\nuntil [he or she] is chosen," said Emily Hamlin, editor in\nchief of the Echo. She added that the board of regents\nhad planned to hold an open presidential search before the June\n15 court ruling. Since the court decided in Federated Publications v. Read more

CUNY open meeting case still up in air

\nNEW YORK - The board of trustees sat at the head of a room\ndesigned for about 50 people. Read more

Court says parents' letters of complaint not public records

\nOHIO - Letters of complaint written by parents to a school superintendent\nare not public records, the Ohio Supreme Court decided in March.\n In Ohio v. Read more

New Hampshire paper beats closed meeting

\nNEW HAMPSHIRE - A court could find The University of New\nHampshire's student senate in contempt the next time the organization\nchooses to hold an unlawful closed meeting. But Sean McNamara, editor in chief of the student newspaper,\nThe New Hampshire, hopes that will not be a problem. A state court approved an agreement between the university's\nsenate and the newspaper, stating that the senate must hold open\nmeetings. "The senate seems happy about [the decision]," McNamara\nsaid, adding that it is willing to cooperate. In mid-April, the senate denied the newspaper staff access\nto a meeting concerning university-imposed sanctions on the student\ngovernment. The sanctions stemmed from a previous open senate meeting in\nJanuary, where two senate members were drinking rum-and-Cokes. When New Hampshire staffers contested the closed session,\na superior court judge in Strafford County issued a temporary\ninjunction, saying that the senate could not meet in closed session\nuntil the court could schedule a full hearing. That hearing, however, never took place. Read more

Department of Education proposes new rules for equity in athletics data

\nWASHINGTON, D.C. - Colleges and universities would have\nto disclose more information about money spent on men's and women's\nteams as a result of new regulations being discussed by the Department\nof Education. Read more

California's Daily Nexus loses open meeting case

\nCALIFORNIA - A university newspaper lost a major open meetings\nbattle on June 1 when the California Supreme Court ruled in favor\nof the University of California's Board of Regents. The Daily Nexus at the University of California at Santa\nBarbara alleged that through private phone calls, the 25-member\nboard of regents, which included then-Gov. Read more

Court dismisses newspaper's lawsuit against school district

\nPENNSYLVANIA - A local newspaper may never find out whether\na school district's teacher application packets are open records.\n In a one-line statement, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court dismissed\nCypress Media v. Read more

Student faces fight, animosity over site

\nMISSOURI - A high school student says even though "it\nhas become hell here in Mexico," he will not file a lawsuit\nagainst the school system that suspended him for five days after\nofficials deemed his personal Web site offensive. Read more

Virginia professors appeal Internet censorship case

\nVIRGINIA - Six professors at George Mason University in\nFairfax will get another chance to challenge the Virginia law\nthat prohibits state employees from getting access to what some\nwould consider pornographic materials on the Internet. The U.S. Read more

More states propose filtering legislation

\nIf several state legislatures have their way, it will be easier\nthan ever to prevent children from obtaining access to Internet\nmaterial some consider harmful. Read more

Woman sues, says public library should have filter

\nCALIFORNIA - A Concord woman is claiming that it is unconstitutional\nfor a public library to allow children to access the Internet\nwithout filtering software. Read more

New national filtering bill introduced

WASHINGTON, D.C. - A new national filtering bill that would require filters on all federally funded computers that are accessible to minors has been introduced by Congressman Ernest Istook (R-Okla.). The bill is stricter than Sen. Read more

Ohio high court rules principals not public officials

\nOHIO - The Ohio Supreme Court ruled on May 15 that public\nschool principals are neither "public officials" nor\n"public figures" for the purposes of defamation law.\n The case began with the March 1995 firing of John McIntosh\nfrom his position as principal of East Canton High School. Read more

Professor loses libel suit against student

\nMASSACHUSETTS - A Wellesley College professor has filed\na motion for appeal after a Massachusetts trial court judge ruled\nin December that a student did not libel him in a 1993 magazine\narticle. Read more

Ole Miss newspaper avoids libel suit

\nMISSISSIPPI - The staff of the Daily Mississippian\nstudent newspaper is sleeping a little easier after fending off\na libel suit. Read more

Student wins press freedom award

\nWASHINGTON, D.C. - The high school editor who fought for\nand won the right to distribute his own student newspaper at an\nArizona high school has been named the winner of the 1998 Scholastic\nPress Freedom Award. Read more

Michigan State newspaper battles for photos

MICHIGAN -- It has been a game of tug-of-war between a student photographer at Michigan State University and a Michigan prosecutor trying to gain access to photographs taken by the student journalist during March riots on the Michigan State campus. A Michigan circuit court in May overturned a lower court's decision that upheld a subpoena that would have forced Michigan State's student newspaper, The State News, and 10 other commercial media organizations to hand over all of their photos of the riot scene to Ingham County prosecuting attorney Stuart Dunnings. Read more