Fall 2002

Missing a hero

The SPLC has no shortage of role models. Hundreds of student journalists who fight censorship and defend their readers' right to accurate news each year provide us an ongoing source of inspiration. Rondray Hill was a special champion. Read more

Student calls seeking legal help rise in 2001

VIRGINIA -- Requests to the Student Press Law Center in 2001 from high school and college journalists needing free help on media law matters rose slightly from 2000. Overall, in 2001 the SPLC staff responded to 2,107 requests from individuals seeking legal help, down about 1 percent from the 2,129 calls received in 2000. Read more

The Report Staff

Laurie Babinski, a Scripps Howard Foundation journalism intern, is a senior journalism and Spanish major at Pepperdine University in Malibu, Calif. Read more

Interpretation of 'public forum' is crucial to case

A key issue in the Governors State University case could be whether the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit agrees with the university's argument that the student newspaper should be considered a ''nonpublic forum.'' In essence, the Illinois attorney general claims that The Innovator is government property that has never been open to free expression by student editors.\n\n No court, however, has ever found a student-edited college publication to be a nonpublic or closed forum. Read more

Media organizations highlight concerns in brief

A group of 25 media and education organizations have joined in support of student journalists at Governors State University in a case that could have profound implications for college press freedom in three Midwestern states.\n\n The students will face the university this fall when Hosty v. Read more

A New Threat

A professor loses his job, even though his performance reviews were positive. Hiring practices are under fire at the university. Read more

Koala survives photo dispute

CALIFORNIA ' Editors at The Koala, an underground humor publication at the University of California at San Diego have escaped student disciplinary charges in June for their coverage of a meeting on campus. The editors faced punishment that some say amounted to censorship. Read more

Columnist allowed back in medical school

TEXAS -- A second-year medical student who was expelled from Texas Tech University's medical school for writing a newspaper column has been granted a temporary injunction and will be allowed back into school. Read more

Free-speech zones frustrate students

Free-speech zone policies have come under fire at two universities this spring, and national civil rights organizations including The Rutherford Institute and the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education are taking notice.\n\n The Rutherford Institute filed a complaint against West Virginia University in federal court on behalf of students at the school, claiming their First Amendment rights had been violated. Read more

Editor seeks changes for media board

NORTH CAROLINA ' The press is often referred to as the Fourth Estate, separate from government and a watchdog for the benefit of readers. Joe Wilbur, executive editor of The Carolinian at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, says school officials are obstructing the guardian role the newspaper plays. Wilbur said if the college has its way, the paper will return to the role it used to play ' that of a public relations tool. Read more

Fla. college ends prior review

FLORIDA ' Prior approval will no longer be the norm for speech on the Miami-Dade Community College campus. Read more

Colleges discipline thieves

Many hard-working newspaper staffs across the country see their product disappear, literally, every year. Read more

Staten Island paper loses at trial court

NEW YORK ' Former student editors of the College Voice at the College of Staten Island are preparing to appeal a federal district judge's March 28 decision in a case where student government officers impounded an issue of the newspaper. Judge Nina Gershon dismissed the charges that members of the paper had brought against members of the student government. Read more

'Joke' issues not so funny

Controversial content has given rise to heated debate, deception and resignations at college newspapers across the country. Read more

Court dismisses libel lawsuit by professor

MASSACHUSETTS ' Former student journalist Avik Roy can breathe a little easier after a state appeals court dismissed a libel suit against him in May. Roy, a former reporter at Counterpoint, a publication written by Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Wellesley College students, was accused of libel by a Wellesley professor. Professor Tony Martin sued Roy, claiming Roy libeled him in an 1993 article that said Martin was granted tenure only after he filed a racial discrimination suit against Wellesley. Read more

Magazine acquitted of libel claim at Tufts

MASSACHUSETTS -- Libel charges, stolen magazines and sexual harassment claims plagued The Primary Source over the course of the last year. Read more

Independent paper sues campus daily

LOUISIANA -- The Tiger Weekly, an independent student newspaper at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, sued the campus newspaper in state court in July, claiming the school's financial support of The Reveille created unfair competition for readers.\n\n Tiger Weekly publisher Wayne Lewis said The Reveille is supposed to be used as a learning tool for the journalism program, but not as a tool to stop competition. Read more

Georgetown leaves speech code intact

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- An attempt to change a policy regarding free speech has been thwarted at Georgetown University. Read more

Alumni groups back Syracuse newspaper

NEW YORK -- Alumni staffers of The Daily Orange at Syracuse University are putting pressure on the administration to let the newspaper remain independent.\n\n Stephen Cohen, founder and president of paper's alumni association, wrote a letter to Chancellor Kenneth Shaw asking that the administration maintain its commitment to having an independent paper. Read more

Students await word on probe into police

MINNESOTA -- The Minnesota Daily is still waiting for answers to a complaint it filed with the Minneapolis Police Department following a riot in April.\n\n Four student journalists -- three photographers and a reporter -- were covering the NCAA hockey championships in Minneapolis and the riot that ensued after the University of Minnesota won. Read more

Dancing around Censorship

Call it the journalistic equivalent of doing the hokey-pokey: You put your good story in, you take your good story out.\n\n Since the U.S. Read more

Pa. drops plan to alter education code

PENNSYLVANIA ' Rest is near for high school journalists who are concerned that their rights are at risk from the state board of education's red pen. Read more

Calif. judge voids damages

CALIFORNIA ' The $4.35 million in damages awarded to a former Palisades Charter High School teacher for a sexual harassment claim against the district were simply too high, a state superior court judge ruled June 7. In a decision that recognizes student free-expression rights, Judge Kenneth Freeman threw out the verdict against the Los Angeles Unified School District that resulted from comments published in an underground newspaper distributed on campus. Read more

Appeals court rejects Columbine wall tiles

COLORADO ' The administrators who want to move on have prevailed over the parents who want to remember. The U.S. Read more

New policies benefit students

While student journalists across the country struggle to retain their right to freedom of expression, some are receiving additional help from the most unlikely of places. Read more

Court declines to hear case on graphic poem

WASHINGTON ' The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the appeal of a boy expelled in 1998 for writing a poem about killing numerous classmates. Three judges of the U.S. Read more

Killian student drops strip-search lawsuit

FLORIDA -- A former Killian High School student has decided not to appeal a March ruling by the U.S. Read more

Silencing the 'rebellion'

Wanted: Teacher willing to advise student publications. Must not allow students to write about controversial issues, damage the school's reputation with quality reporting or upset students, parents or the community with the truth. Read more

The end of Webcasting as we know it?

Environmentalists are no longer the only ones working to ''Save Our Streams.'' College students striving to preserve a man-made medium have adopted the slogan to identify their technological quest. Read more

Appeal challenges jurisdiction

CALIFORNIA ' A lawsuit that began with a dispute about copyright infringement has ballooned into a battle that could have a major impact on online publishers. Read more

Student may face jail for posting porn story

NEW YORK ' An 18-year-old senior from Shenendehowa High School could serve a year in jail for posting a pornographic story involving fellow students and a teacher on the Web. Vincent Fuschino was charged with second-degree aggravated harassment in May when a young woman recognized herself as a character in the 40-page story. Read more

Anonymous professor shuts down Web site

LOUISIANA -- John L. Scott, the professor who posted an anonymous Web site criticizing the University of Louisiana at Monroe, came forward and took down the ''Truth of ULM'' site on May 22.\n\n Richard L. Read more

Instant message suit dismissed by courts

PENNSYLVANIA -- A student's claim that his AOL Instant Messenger transcript was obtained through a violation of the federal wiretap law has been dismissed in federal trial and appellate courts.\n\n The student was expelled in December 1999 from Friends Central School in Wynnewood for an online conversation in which he said, ''stupid people should be banished or killed.'' A print-out of the conversation was confiscated from another student on a class trip.\n\n The expelled student and his parents filed a lawsuit against school, arguing that the student's privacy had been infringed through an illegal wire-intercept. Read more

Student challenges expulsion in court

MICHIGAN -- A high school student who was suspended and taken to a psychiatric hospital after posting offensive comments on the Internet is now suing to clear his record, obtain monetary damages and have the school district's disciplinary policy declared unconstitutional.\n\n Joshua Mahaffey was given a 143-day suspension from Waterford Kettering High School in September 2001 for ''assault, behavior dangerous to self and others, harassment and Internet violations.''\n\n Mahaffey's First Amendment rights were violated, his lawyer Richard Landau said, because Mahaffey did not use school computers to post his comments, nor did he violate the school's Internet policy. Read more

Tenn. university sued for invasion of privacy

TENNESSEE -- Romantic e-mails are at the heart of a legal battle over privacy at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. Read more

'Hot girls' site creator will not file lawsuit

MONTANA -- The Great Falls High School senior who was expelled for posting photographs of female students on his Web site under the heading ''10 Hottest Freshman Girls'' has abandoned his intentions to take civil action against the school.\n\n Kenny Volk was instructed by his principal, Gary Davis, to not take photos of the girls, and was suspended after the administration learned of the Web site in February. Read more

Court forces school to change conduct code

OHIO -- What began as a battle over a student's right to view his Web page at school has resulted in a ruling that the conduct code at North Canton City Schools is unconstitutional.\n\n Jonathan Coy was suspended for five days from North Canton Middle School in 2001 for viewing ''lewd and obscene material'' on his skateboarding Web site during school hours.\n\n In April 2002, a federal trial court found that a section of the school district's conduct code was ''constitutionally invalid on its face'' because it was too vague.\n\n The passage stated, ''Any action or behavior judged by school officials to be inappropriate and not specifically mentioned in other sections shall be in violation of the Student Conduct Code.'' \n\n The school district has since altered the code to read, ''Students will not be punished or limited in their lawful right to express themselves on-campus or off-campus in a manner that is protected by the First Amendment.'' Read more

Group seeks tape from Fla. TV station

FLORIDA ' The state association that oversees attorneys is claiming that shield laws do not apply to students and that the University of Florida's student television station should be required to turn over the tape of an interview. The Florida Bar wants the copy of a taped interview in which an attorney allegedly made a statement out of court about pending litigation, an apparent ethics violation. Read more

Court: Iowa college has no right to sources

IOWA ' The state supreme court sided with the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier in June, saying the newspaper's editors did not have to release the names of confidential sources. The Courier is suing Hawkeye Community College for open-meetings violations involving the termination of President William Hierstein. Read more

Student cited with theft for taping Gore

WASHINGTON, D.C. ' A battle over intellectual property is brewing at American University after a student was charged with violating several disciplinary codes for videotaping an on-campus speech by Tipper Gore, wife of former presidential candidate Al Gore. Ben Wetmore, then a junior at American, was charged with seven disciplinary code violations after he videotaped Gore's speech in April, then refused to hand the tape over to university officials. Read more

Papers demand crime records

Red tape is not what is standing in their way. On college and university campuses, the thick black lines that redact key crime details on campus security reports are the newest information barrier for student journalists.\n\n Whether it is legitimate confusion about federal reporting procedures or intentional omission to preserve the image of the school, reporters are finding that institutions of higher education are reluctant to release campus crime information to journalists.\n\n Editors of the Branding Iron are considering suing the University of Wyoming for withholding the details of two on-campus sexual assaults.\n\n The staff is seeking the release of locations and witness names under the state open-records law after limited information was released on April 5. Read more

High court limits privacy law

WASHINGTON, D.C. ' In a ruling that could mean easier access to campus crime information, the U.S. Read more

Paper loses fight for disciplinary files

OHIO ' The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit on July 27 upheld an injunction sought by the U.S. Read more

Ind. college cited for crime log violations

INDIANA ' In a report that further clarifies a college's obligation to maintain campus police logs under federal law, the U.S. Read more

Colo. creates campus sex-offender registry

COLORADO ' Gov. Bill Owens signed a bill June 1 that requires sex offenders in Colorado to register with colleges and universities and calls for a statewide database to track the offenders. Read more

Crime report audits proposed in Calif. bill

CALIFORNIA -- State legislators are taking aim at crime reporting by institutions of higher education by considering a bill that would require random audits of campus crime statistics. Read more

Autopsy photos remain sealed

FLORIDA ' A state appeals court ruled July 12 that Florida's Earnhardt Protection Act, which restricts public access to autopsy photos, is constitutional. The law was passed after racecar driver Dale Earnhardt's death during the Daytona 500 in February 2001.Several news organizations, including the University of Florida's Independent Florida Alligator, challenged the law on grounds that it was in conflict with public information rights in the Florida Constitution. The Florida Court of Appeals ruled the right to privacy outweighed any public interest in the 33 photos, taken as backups to the assistant medical examiner's tape-recorded notes of the autopsy. Read more

Wis. releases admissions records

WISCONSIN ' The Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled July 2 that University of Wisconsin officials must comply with open-records requests and release information about applicants that does not compromise individual identities. The court ruled that exemptions under federal and state law do not allow the board of regents to deny the release of the information sought by law student J. Read more

Chicago Tribune loses case over school files

ILLINOIS ' A state appellate court overturned a trial court decision in June concerning the Chicago Tribune's request for student information. The Tribune sued the Chicago School District after it refused to release information about unnamed students, including attendance records, test scores, race and transportation status, among several other categories. Read more

Judge voids meeting vote to fire president

TEXAS -- A Wichita Falls judge ruled July 12 that the Midwestern State University Board of Regents violated the state open-meetings law when it failed to properly notify the public of pending action against former President Henry Moon.\n\n The judge granted the Times Record News' request for a temporary injunction against the regents, voiding their decision to fire Moon, who was embroiled in controversy and subsequently placed on administrative leave in August 2001.\n\n The paper filed the suit after the regents met in executive session on \nJune 11 to discuss Moon's status at the university, including the possibility of ending his administrative leave and pay status.\n\n University attorney Roger Lee said the board is likely to reconvene an open meeting to reconsider the matter. Read more

Kan. board members agree to $250 in fines

KANSAS -- The board of education at Piper Unified School District settled a civil complaint April 2 that alleged violations of the state's open-meetings law.\n\n The seven members of the school board voted to pay fines for going into closed session at a December meeting to discuss the definition of plagiarism in relation to a cheating scandal.\n\n Wyandotte County District Attorney Nick Tomasic said the board agreed to pay $250 per member and $1,238 as a whole in investigation and court costs for one of the five charges. Read more

Advisers in limbo

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