Allegations of sexual assault and drug and alcohol abuse during football recruitment plagued the University of Colorado last year, leading lawmakers and state officials to eye the University of Colorado Foundation, which held key documents that would indicate how some funding for recruitment was spent.
In an open-records battle spanning more than four years between the Cornell University School of Agriculture and a radio talk-show host, the highest state court ruled partly in favor of each side in February.
As a growing number of high school students find themselves facing legal battles regarding censorship, legislators are trying to establish or change existing laws regarding student expression and student press rights.
Battles for access to campus crime records in Georgia are being waged on
two fronts. Proposed Senate Bill 153 would redefine the
Georgia Open Records Act to include police records at private schools, while
a case involving Mercer University may progress to the Georgia Supreme Court
and set a legal precedent for crime records disclosure.The state Open Records Act defines materials subject to disclosure as "all documents
prepared and maintained in the course of operation of a public office or agency" or documents received "on behalf of a public office or agency." A
state trial court ruled that private Mercer University had to turn over the
records of its campus police department--which operates with official
law enforcement authority--under the Open Records Act.
CALIFORNIA -- An 18-year-old college freshman was arrested in
February for taking photographs of an alleged car burglary in progress--an
incident that stirred up questions nationwide about journalistic ethics and
The Student Press Law Center has launched a grass roots campaign to reach student journalists, educators, professional journalists, news executives and others interested in promoting and protecting First Amendment freedoms for students across the nation.
A state bill was introduced in the Pennsylvania Senate on March 23 that, if it becomes law, would allow all students--elementary and high school--to have portraits taken by a photographer of their choosing included in the yearbook, rather than one the school or yearbook staff has chosen.
Londonderry High School student Blake Douglass sued his school district in October in order to force the yearbook to publish his photo, claiming the ban violated his constitutional rights. Douglass’ photo showed him clad in trapshooting clothing, kneeling with a shotgun propped over his shoulder. Douglass said he wanted to express his enthusiasm for his favorite hobby, trapshooting.
Troy High School officials wrongfully justified their firing of the editor of the student newspaper with a section of the state education code that requires parental permission before schools question students about their sex lives, according to a legal analyst for the California Department of Education.
A cartoon showing stick figures in varying sexual positions, an article
about sexually transmitted diseases and condoms and an article about the moral
issue of virginity were censored by administrators who deemed them “too
mature” for high school audiences this year.
The voices of students who broadcast from their high school and college
radio stations are in danger of being silenced due to a seldom-invoked Federal
Communications Commission rule that says stations may have to share their
airtime with others if they are on the air less than 12 hours a day.
Off-campus non-profit organizations are using this time-share agreement rule
to file for demands to share broadcast time or take over non-commercial school
CALIFORNIA ? Harvard University student Nick Ciarelli created
ThinkSecret.com in 1998 as a way to showcase his enthusiasm for Apple products.
Seven years later, he is fighting to keep the site online.
KENTUCKY ? The University of Louisville foundations?
records were opened by the state courts for good in December 2004, joining a
series of other public universities who were recently dealt similar
rulings.The Louisville Courier-Journal sued the University of
Louisville Foundation, the school?s fundraising arm, in May 2003 seeking
the names of its 45,000 donors.
IOWA ? After a four-year battle against the Iowa State
University Foundation, retired Des Moines businessman Arlen Nichols, 75, came
one step closer to obtaining foundation documents that could prove his suspicion
that university funds were mishandled.The Iowa Supreme Court ruled in
February that the ISU Foundation?the fundraising arm of the university
that denied Nichols an array of records?was performing a government
function as a result of its contract with Iowa State University.
GEORGIA ? A bill that allows public universities to withhold
documents and records from the public to protect donor confidentiality was
passed in the Georgia House of Representatives and the Senate in April, bucking
a nationwide trend of openness.Public colleges and universities, Republican
legislators in favor of the bill argued, are at a disadvantage because
foundations at private universities are not required to release information
about their donors.
FLORIDA ? When it comes to funding student publications, a
state law that allows student government control over the funding of student
organizations propagates a power struggle between student journalists and
student government officials, and the Florida Atlantic University student
newspaper is caught in the center of it.
COLORADO -- Thomas Mink, a University of Northern Colorado
student who was arrested for criminal libel after he posted an altered photo of
a professor on his Web site, has appealed to a federal appeals court to
challenge the constitutionality of the state's criminal libel
law.Mink, author of the satirical Web site The Howling Pig, altered a
photo of the professor to look like Gene Simmons, lead singer of KISS, and
posted the photo on his site, along with a satirical biography of the professor.
But Mink's computer was soon confiscated by police and Mink was arrested
on the grounds that he violated the criminal libel statute.Criminal libel
statues are different from civil libel laws, which allow victims of libel to
seek compensation from speakers.
MINNESOTA ? A March ruling in a state appeals court reaffirmed
the principle that public colleges and universities are not liable for the
content of student newspapers as long as school officials are not censoring the
newspapers.Richard Lewis, a former dean and current professor at St.
Newspaper theft culprits found out the hard way this year that their
attempts to cover up information about a crime by committing another crime can
draw more attention to it and some college administrators and law enforcement
officials are taking such crimes more seriously.
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Student journalists may have the law on
their side when promising sources anonymity if a recently introduced federal
bill, The Free Flow of Information Act of 2005, passes in the House and
Senate.The bill, also known as the Media Shield Law, was introduced by
Congressmen Rick Boucher (D.-Va.) and Mike Pence (R.-Ind.) under H.R.
On Valentine's Day, University of Michigan basketball player Daniel Horton
pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor domestic violence charge for allegedly choking
his girlfriend in December 2004.When the Michigan Daily student
newspaper reported his plea, subsequent sentencing and suspension from the team,
athletic department officials contacted the newspaper with a message that
surprised Editor in Chief Jason Presick."They were very complimentary of our
coverage because the Detroit Free Press had published the girlfriend's
name and we didn't," he said.
In separate victories for students? free expression on personal Web
sites, judges ruled in two recent cases that school officials acted in violation
of students? First Amendment rights when they punished the students for
off-campus Web sites they created that were critical of their schools.