This summer, the Student Press Law Center will launch
the First Amendment Fund to protect the rights of student journalists.
"Anyone who works with students recognizes that
they frequently have to fight for their right to cover important issues,"
says Mary Arnold Hemlinger, youth journalism and diversity consultant for
the Newspaper Association of American Foundation and chair of the SPLC's
board of directors.
KENTUCKY -- After seven years, the members
of the Kentucky State University class of 1994 will finally receive their
KSU officials agreed to distribute the books in
February as part of a settlement with two students who sued the university
for violating their First Amendment rights by confiscating the 1994 edition
of the Thorobred.
Under the terms of the settlement, Kentucky State
will attempt to reach 90 percent of the students eligible to receive the
yearbook, which was funded with student activity fees.
WISCONSIN -- The University of Wisconsin at Madison is appealing
a federal court's ruling that its student-fee allocation system is still
not viewpoint-neutral and therefore unconstitutional.
The case, Fry v.
Newspaper thefts on college campuses increased dramatically this spring,
due in part to a controversial advertisement that has triggered thefts
and protests on campuses across the country.
Although students rarely pay for an issue of their campus paper, producing
a newspaper costs money -- sometimes lots of it.
OREGON -- A student editor filed a lawsuit against three university
officials March 16 for violating his First Amendment rights and confiscating
a box of confidential university records that landed outside his office
Portland State University officials locked Dimitrius Desyllas, editor
of an alternative campus publication, The Rearguard, out of the
newspaper's office and detained him for more than two hours after they
learned he had the box of confidential student disciplinary records, Desyllas
ILLINOIS -- Several months of controversy surrounding Governors
State University's student newspaper will likely drag on following a decision
by student editors to sue the university for violating their First Amendment
Although school officials said the editors can publish at any time and
have simply chosen not to, the students say their ability to produce a
newspaper has been effectively crippled.
The editor and managing editor of The Innovator filed suit against
the GSU Board of Trustees and three administrators Jan.
President Bush has only been in office for a few months, but student journalists
at two universities have already encountered problems stemming from their
coverage of the first family.
In February, three Secret Service agents detained and questioned Glenn
Given, managing editor of the Stony Brook Press, a satirical campus
newspaper at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, about a column
he wrote in which he asked God to "smite" President Bush.
According to Given, the agents said they feared the article might be
interpreted by some as a divine call to harm the president.
VIRGINIA -- James Madison may have been the author of the First
Amendment, but an official at his namesake university does not like the
idea of a free, campus-funded student press.
Charles Cunningham, a member of the university's board of visitors,
has tried to sever school funding of James Madison University's student
newspaper twice-once as a student and now as an administrator.
Cunningham asked the university administration at a March 23 board meeting
to prepare a report detailing the funding and operation of The Breeze
because of an insert the newspaper began publishing this year called Turf.
Cunningham said he does not think Turf positively represents
the university, according to Breeze editor Julie Sproesser.
Sproesser said Turf is a "comedic, satirical entertainment magazine
... it's supposed to be funny."
But after a friend sent Cunningham a copy of the Feb.
NEW JERSEY -- A public university's alumni magazine cannot refuse
advocacy advertising because doing so violates the First Amendment rights
of advertisers, according to a March court ruling.
Rutgers Alumni Council 1000 sued Rutgers University in 1999 after the
alumni publication, Rutgers University Magazine, refused to publish
the group's advertisement urging university officials to shift their focus
from athletics to academics.
The magazine said the ad violated its policy against advocacy advertising,
but Rutgers 1000 argued that the policy was not put in writing until after
it filed a lawsuit, and a judge agreed.
PENNSYLVANIA -- The U.S. Supreme Court declined in January to hear
a college student newspaper's appeal of a state law banning alcohol ads
in college publications.
Now the case is headed back to a federal district court for a full hearing.
The 1996 law prohibits businesses from advertising alcohol in publications
produced "by, for, or in behalf of any education institution."
Following the enactment of the Children's Internet Protection Act, Consumer
Reports magazine tested the effectiveness of six Internet filtering
products plus America Online's parental control function.
WASHINGTON -- School administrators received a lesson in First Amendment
rights in February after a judge approved a settlement granting more than
$60,000 to a student who was suspended for posting a Web site that poked
fun at his assistant principal.
Karl Beidler was awarded $10,000 in damages and $52,000 in attorney's
fees following negotiations between the American Civil Liberties Union
of Washington, which represented Beidler, and the North Thurston County
The settlement came after a Thurston County Superior Court judge ruled
in July that Beidler's First Amendment rights were violated when he was
"Today the First Amendment protects students' speech to the same extent
as in 1979 or 1969, when the U.S.
CALIFORNIA -- A family filed a lawsuit against the Lompoc Unified
School District for libel and invasion of privacy in March after a school
newspaper published an article containing accusations of abuse and alcoholism
within the family that they say are false.
Jerry and Barbara Reyes, parents of Cabrillo High School student Christina
Reyes, sued the school district claiming that an article published in the
student newspaper, Fore and Aft, contained untrue statements falsely
attributed to Christina Reyes.
The March 2000 article, which discussed the effects of divorce on children,
allegedly reported that 16-year-old Christina Reyes said her father was
an alcoholic who physically abused her mother and sexually molested her
MASSACHUSETTS -- Teachers suing students, a situation once considered
rare, is now becoming more common among high school and college students
In one of the most recent cases, Salem State College professor Adeleke
Atewologun sued student newspaper editor Ed Justen, newspaper adviser Ellen
Golub and the school itself in December claiming he was libeled in an article
in The Log that reported that he was arrested for domestic violence.
According to court records, Atewologun claims Justen defamed him in
a December article about a sexual harassment charge in which Justen said
Atewologun was arrested in 1993 on a domestic abuse charge.
Atewologun, who denies all allegations, is suing for $216,000 in damages,
claiming that his reputation was ruined as a result of the article.
"It is simply not true," Atewologun said.
Two years ago, Congress made it harder for colleges and universities to
hide violent crime behind the ivy-covered walls of their campus courts
by passing legislation specifically allowing schools to release the disciplinary
records of students found responsible for violent crimes.
Although the digital age has often meant unprecedented improvements in
access to information, new digital communications devices in use by police
and emergency departments may mean just the opposite for news reporters.
Many cities are switching to the digital devices to ensure security,
but with increased security comes restricted access for the media and the
public because traditional radio scanners no longer work.
The U.S. Department of Education conducted inquiries into campus crime
reporting practices at both The College of New Jersey and Bowling Green
State University this year.
The College of New Jersey was selected for review because of a professor's
complaint that the college had not reported three sexual assaults on campus
during the 1996-97 academic year.
Both state and federal legislators have introduced bills in the last few
months to increase the availability of information about certain crimes
and criminals on college campuses.
Legislatures in both California and Tennessee are considering bills
that would require convicted sex offenders enrolled at colleges or universities
to register with campus officials.
The California bill (AB 4) would require all sex offenders to register
with campus police within five working days of enrollment, whether they
live on campus or not.
KANSAS -- Twelve refusals by police did not stop the University
of Kansas student newspaper staff from accessing an accident report.
Despite the Kansas Highway Patrol's claim that the report was exempt
from the state open-records act, The University Daily Kansan decided
to take its request to court where a judge ordered the cops to comply.
When The Kansan requested access to the report on a fatal September
car accident involving two local residents, state police said they would
not release the report because it was part of a criminal investigation.
But Shawnee County District Court Judge Terry Bullock ruled in March
that the record should be considered public and turned over to the newspaper.
John Eichkorn, state public information officer for the Kansas Highway
Patrol, said the patrol then turned over the records and will not appeal
According to Eichkorn, the patrol initially refused the newspaper's
request to avoid jeopardizing the pending criminal investigation that later
resulted in a 16-year-old pleading no contest to a charge of involuntary
Nathan Willis, now opinion editor of The Kansan, filed suit against
the patrol in November, claiming the patrol violated the Kansas Open Records
Act by refusing to release the report.
In his decision, Bullock said he ruled in favor of the newspaper because
Willis was simply requesting the report the patrol must forward to the
Kansas Department of Transportation.
NEW YORK -- A judge ruled in November that the state freedom of
information law requires a community college bookstore to release its invoices
to the student newspaper, despite the bookstore's claim that the invoices
were proprietary information.
The Hudson Valley Community College Faculty Student Association, a nonprofit
group that runs the bookstore and other campus services, turned over the
invoices in redacted form to editors at The Hudsonian student newspaper,
who then published a story on the bookstore prices.
Judge George Ceresia Jr.
FLORIDA -- The University of Florida student newspaper stepped into
the legal arena built around legendary NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt's autopsy
photos in March to challenge a settlement made between Earnhardt's widow
and the Orlando Sentinel.
That settlement allowed the Sentinel to have an independent medical
examiner evaluate photographs from Earnhardt's autopsy, after which the
photos were to be sealed.
NEVADA -- The state supreme court ruled in March that the president
of a community college is not a public officer and that at least parts
of a college's presidential search may be conducted privately.
The decision came after The Las Vegas Review-Journal sued
in September to prevent the Community College of Southern Nevada Board
of Regents from privately interviewing presidential candidates.
ALABAMA -- Student and professional journalists have joined together
to sue the Auburn University Board of Trustees because of what they believe
are violations of the state's open-meetings law.
Six professional newspapers, along with the Alabama Press Association
and Auburn's student newspaper, The Auburn Plainsman, filed a lawsuit
For more than 25 years, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA),
or "Buckley Amendment," has protected the privacy of student education
records. Recently, however, some school districts have
given the Act a curious interpretation.
NEW YORK -- The staff of the Francis Lewis High School student newspaper
thought the bathrooms at their school stunk.
Students were upset by restrictive policies on student bathroom use,
such as the "10-minute rule," which called for bathrooms to be locked the
first and last 10 minutes of class and a ban on more than two bathrooms
-- one for each sex -- being open at the same time.
MICHIGAN -- A high school newspaper adviser was reprimanded after
a student's column criticizing the observance of Black History Month sparked
debate among local students and parents.
The trouble started in March after an article critical of Black History
Month was published in the February edition of Plymouth Salem High School's
P-CEP Perspective. The article, written by senior Chris MacKinder,
questioned the need to celebrate Black History Month, claiming that by
celebrating the month "race once again becomes a popular topic of discussion."
He added that celebrating Black History Month was unfair because other
groups and races were not celebrated.
MacKinder's column caused an uproar, mainly in the African-American
community, which requested a meeting with school administrators and demanded
that MacKinder be expelled and newspaper adviser Mary Lou Nagy be fired.
Instead, administrators reprimanded Nagy by relieving her of her three
classes and placing her in an administrative position for eight days.
OHIO -- It all happened rather quickly. One day the student newspaper
was distributed, the next day it was suspended, and six eventful days later,
it was returned to the students.
While some might laud the return of the Walnut Hills High School student
paper as a victory for the student press, staff members are not so ready
to claim success.
Philip Ewing, co-editor of The Chatterbox, called it a "limited
victory." Although the principal gave the newspaper back to the students,
he also implemented a new set of rules that would give him "a way to censor
us," Ewing said.
The struggle started in March when Walnut Hills principal Marvin O.
Koenig suspended the student newspaper because of a column and a cartoon
featured on the humor page in the March 15 issue that poked fun at the
The column, written by humor page editor Sean Krebs, criticized school
administrators for holding Saturday school, a form of detention for skipping
class that requires students to report to school on Saturdays.
CALIFORNIA -- Almost a year has passed since the principal of Salinas
High School first put the yearbook staff on probation for what he described
as a publication filled with inappropriate content.
Three-fourths of both high school principals and advisers at schools around
the country say their student newspapers are censored, a recent survey
Of those principals and advisers who agreed that their newspapers were
censored, 39 percent of the principals and 40 percent of the advisers indicated
that the censorship was done by the adviser.
ILLINOIS -- An eight-year-long legal battle finally came to a close
in November when the Chicago Board of Education agreed to pay $40,000 to
a former student who was suspended for criticizing her school's "no shorts"
policy in the student newspaper.
Cynthia Hanifin was a 17-year-old student at Hubbard High School in
Chicago when she was suspended in 1993 for four days for the column.
PENNSYLVANIA -- Several students were suspended in March for distributing
an underground newspaper that administrators said contained "hurtful" comments
about other students at the school.
Council Rock High School principal David Yates suspended the honor students
after they created and distributed copies of The Laundromat Liberator,
which attacked three students in particular with "hurtful, embarrassing
and slanderous" comments, Yates told The Philadelphia Inquirer.
Yates would not specify how many students were suspended or for how
FLORIDA -- A high school principal canceled the distribution of
the student newspaper in February because of a column criticizing school
administrators and teachers that he called "disruptive to the school."
Palm Coast High School principal Larry Hungsinger ordered students to
stop distributing the remaining 200 copies of the Feb.
NEVADA -- School administrators suspended a student in March after
they found a list she created of people with whom she is "frustrated."
The Pau-Wa-Lu Middle School student was suspended for 10 days after
school officials learned of the list, which included names of fellow classmates
who frustrate her.
A sheriff's investigation into the incident concluded that the girl
posed no immediate threat because she did not have access to any weapons
and she did not make any direct threats.
The sheriff's department got involved after receiving an anonymous tip.
Richard Siegel, president of the American Civil Liberties of Nevada
criticized Douglas County officials for "overstepping their bounds."