Fall 2004

Private university's police refuse to release records

The Washington University Police Department told Student Life that because it is an agency of the private university, it is not required to follow the Missouri Sunshine Law.In a letter to editor in chief Jonathan Greenberger, a university official stated, “Washington University ...is not a ‘public governmental body.’ Therefore, the University is not subject to the Missouri Sunshine Law and other laws expressly applicable to public bodies, and the reports you seek are not open to public inspection,” Student Life reported. Read more

Minn. court shines light on presidential searches

In a 4-2 decision, the Minnesota Supreme Court on July 15 ordered the public university's board of regents to reveal information about candidates interviewed during the 2002 search. The Supreme Court upheld rulings in two lower courts. Read more

Editors sue student council for closed meetings

The Mirror’s former editor in chief Jessica Perciante, current editor in chief Heath Urie and current managing editor Christopher Marcheso allege that the university’s Student Representative Council and its president, Steve Gustafson, knowingly violated state open-meetings laws when they conducted closed-door meetings on Sept. 24, 2003, Nov. 19, 2003, and Feb. 4, 2004. Read more

Mo. legislature revises sunshine law to include university

Revisions to the Missouri Sunshine Law signed by Gov. Bob Holden on the University of Missouri at Columbia campus in June clarify, among other things, that the public university’s board of trustees is required to follow state open-records laws. Read more

Court says student's open-meetings suit can move forward

A former student editor’s lawsuit alleging violations of state open-meetings law by her college’s board of trustees will go to trial, a state court ruled in July. Read more

SPLC condemns censorship at Kansas State

In July statement was in response to the actions of officials at Kansas State University in removing the student newspaper adviser based on the content decisions made by student editors. The SPLC has grave concerns about the legal arguments KSU officials are making about free press protections for students at the university. Those arguments are, quite simply, unprecedented, dangerous and offensive to the First Amendment. Read more

Court throws out Pa. alcohol ad ban

In a ruling five years in the making, a federal appeals court ruled in July that a state law banning paid alcohol advertisements in student media was a violation of the First Amendment.The landmark ruling paves the way for other student media outside of Pennsylvania to fight similar laws or restrictions. Read more

Student editors sue university trustees over funding cut

Three editors of a student newspaper are suing their university’s board of trustees, claiming that the board cut the newspaper’s funding because of its content.Editor in chief Heath Urie, managing editor Christopher Marcheso and news editor Andrew Rosenthal allege that the University of Northern Colorado Board of Trustees approved a recommendation to reduce of The Mirror’s funding by 40 percent because of articles that were critical of the board and the university’s Student Representative Council. Read more

After conflict, senators cut funding to paper

The reduction in student fees allocated to the student paper came as a result of numerous articles criticizing the student government, said Shultz, who is the former editor in chief of the Spectrum. Read more

N.Y. students sue university over its speech code

Lawyers for students Patricia Simpson and Robert Wojick filed the lawsuit in June against the State University of New York at Brockport in a federal district court in Buffalo. Read more

For some journalists, diversity training might be a requirement

At Southwest Missouri State University, a group of minority students lashed out against editors of The Standard, a student newspaper on campus, because of an editorial cartoon that appeared in the newspaper that they found to be "offensive." Read more

Fla. college suspends paper after students fight for control

Since February, editors struggled with administrators over access to the school’s financial records and the use of the college’s logo on their business cards. The situation climaxed in March when editors printed an article — without their adviser’s approval — criticizing the lack of student activities on campus. Read more

Candidate endorsement case dismissed

A federal court sidestepped a ruling in March on whether a student newspaper can endorse candidates in student government elections by dismissing a case involving the City College of New York on the grounds it was no longer relevant. Read more

College officials trash student publications

Copies of the La Roche Courier were distributed on April 14 and confiscated by college president Monsignor William Kerr three days later -- the same day prospective students and their parents toured the college during an open house.Kerr apparently confiscated the newspapers because of an editorial in the newspaper that advocated teaching students about safe sex, said Nicole Johnson, a student editor of the newspaper. Read more

Student politicians implicated in newspaper thefts

Although other jurisdictions have successfully prosecuted those involved in the theft of free newspapers, a student newspaper in California is trying to make a university police department acknowledge that newspaper theft is a crime. Read more

After police refuse to investigate, colleges reprimand thieves

Every year, many newspaper thieves go unpunished because local and campus authorities cannot locate a suspect, or because they choose not to investigate the incident. Read more

What records should I request?

Experts say auditors must be sure that the requested records are public records.  Read more

It's a jungle out there

Georgia Dunn was not surprised when she learned that Ohio school districts performed poorly in an Ohio Coalition for Open Government study gauging compliance of the state’s open-records law. The audit’s results, released in June, showed school districts released records the same day or the next less than 30 percent of the time -- the lowest rate of any type of public body included in the statewide audit. Dunn, Ohio Journalism Education Association state director, said compliance with open-records laws has not been a high priority for schools. Read more

'Sunshine' forecast for La. minors

When a 16-year-old Michael Wayne Barker requested records from his school district about computer- and technology-related purchases, he had no intention to start a yearlong journey to change state open-records laws -- he just wanted to make a few money-saving suggestions. Read more

Supreme Court says COPA is likely unconstitutional

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled June 29 that a law designed to protect minors from Internet pornography was probably overbroad and unconstitutional, but sent the case back to a lower court to rule on whether new technological advances would make enforcement of the law feasible. In a 5-4 decision, the court ruled that a 1998 statute, which carried up to a $50,000 fine per day and jail time for anyone who exposed minors to harmful material online, threatened the First Amendment right to free speech if enforced. Read more

Student punished for Web posting critical of school

Graham said the posting meant that he was not going to be silenced about his opposition to the school district’s newly enacted student publications prior review policy and Superintendent Herb Levine’s treatment of students during meetings about the change. In December, Principal Ann Papagiotas ordered the newspaper’s publication date delayed until students changed editorials on low student moral and school policies forbidding hats and eating in classrooms. The school then established a prior review policy breaking with the state’s tradition of only allowing censorship of a student publication if it would lead to a substantial disruption at the school.  Read more

Minn. court dismisses professor's libel suit

A state court debunked a common excuse for administrative censorship, ruling that a public university cannot be held liable for an article in a student newspaper because it does not have editorial control over the publication. Read more

Police apologize for deleting students' photos

Although Paul Gleason and Kyle Smealie were only in high school at the time, they knew they had rights like any other journalist.So when a Fairfax County police officer confiscated their digital camera and deleted photos from it, they knew their rights were being violated and demanded an apology from the police department. Read more

Officials seize video of fight from student

Not only did administrators do just that, they demanded he erase the footage — on the grounds that it infringed on the rights of the students Smalt captured on film.The incident began when Smalt, who was in a class that produced news and entertainment segments for Time Warner Cable's local public access channel, decided to report on a fight between two groups of students at Ithaca High School. Read more

Put to the test

An increasing number of high schools have canceled journalism courses in which students create a publication in favor of traditional English courses that some say will help better prepare students for standardized tests. At Hartsville High School in South Carolina, all English electives, including journalism, were cut because of low student test scores and teacher shortages. Read more

Ill. principal objects to video tribute for student who died

Each year more than 30,000 Americans between the ages of 15 and 24 die, according to the National Center for Health Statistics, leaving many school communities to decide on appropriate tributes. Read more

Alaska court orders school to release settlement terms

The court found that the district’s use of the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act as a justification for not releasing the details of legal settlements was improper. Read more

DOE: Colleges cannot prevent victims from speaking out

The U.S. Department of Education has decided that universities cannot forbid a sexual assault victim from disclosing to the public the outcome of his or her accused assailant’s student disciplinary proceeding. Read more

Record fine issued for Clery Act violations

The $250,000 fine levied against Salem International University, formerly Salem-Teikyo University, is the biggest ever for violating the Clery Act, a federal law that requires all colleges and universities to keep and maintain publicly accessible crime logs, annually report crime statistics and warn the campus community about security threats. Read more

Student poet's felony conviction overturned

The student, referred to in court documents at “George T.,” served 100 days in juvenile hall during his sophomore year after showing a classmate a poem that read in part: “For I can be the next kid to bring guns to kill students at school. So parents watch your children cuz I’m back.” Read more

Bill takes aim at material deemed 'harmful to minors'

On April 28, Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., introduced the “Parents’ Empowerment Act of 2004,” which allows parents to sue anyone involved in the distribution of pornographic material that is obscene or otherwise “harmful to minors” to which minors could be exposed. Read more

Mont. ruling opens meetings of high-level college officials

In a 5-2 decision, the Montana Supreme Court found that the officials’ closed-door discussions of university policy and other matters violated requirements for public meetings in the state constitution. Read more

Kan. adviser fights removal by suing

Courts have consistently ruled that media advisers at public colleges cannot exert any editorial control on student publications. However, Johnson was criticized for content in the newspaper that he had no direct control over. Read more

Fla. district pays $20,000 to settle adviser's lawsuit

In May, the Palm Beach County School District agreed to pay Toby Eichas $20,000 in a settlement, but the district did not admit any guilt in the conflict. The dispute began during the 1998-1999 school year when the student newspaper published columns that school officials called insensitive. Read more

Pa. weighs changes to expression policy

Under proposed changes to Section 12.9 of the Pennsylvania Code, administrators can censor content in a school-sponsored student publication if they have an educational reason for doing so. If they think the publication expresses a “serious” threat, it could be banned. And if they think language is vulgar or offensive, the student responsible could be punished. Read more

Two college advisers believe content caused their removal

Two college newspaper advisers are considering legal action against school administrators because they believe they were removed from their positions for refusing to censor students.In Indiana, school administrators at Vincennes University removed the eight-year adviser of the Trailblazer, a student newspaper, after a yearlong struggle over content in the publication.Trailblazer adviser Michael Mullen was told during a performance evaluation in May that he was being transferred to the public university's English department, where he taught six years prior to serving as newspaper adviser.Although administrators at the public university told Mullen they were transferring him because they needed to fill a vacancy, he believes the newspaper's content was a main factor in their decision."I allowed the staff to publish articles that were embarrassing to the university and put a light on things they would prefer were kept in the dark," Mullen saidThe former adviser is in talks with a lawyer over a possible lawsuit against the university.Duane Chattin, director of public information for Vincennes University, said the university has a long history of allowing students to print what they want in the newspaper, and the decision to transfer Mullen was legitimate."Only after the fact does the adviser critique the students," Chattin said. Read more

Off the mark

Reading through Ron Johnson's last evaluation as adviser to the Kansas State Collegian there is no mention of him as a "bad adviser." Instead, Johnson is praised by administrators for his service to student and professional media organizations. Read more

For yearbooks, a diminished kind of free speech

Daydreams of summer vacations were replaced with concern about yearbook content for many school administrators as the final days of the school year came to a close last spring. Read more

High school officials roast student papers

Though some say respect for the First Amendment is making a comeback, student journalists, administrators and advisers are still working to find the balance between students? free-speech rights and schools? responsibilities. Read more