Winter 2001-02


A chart accompanying the story, "A Lost Cause?" on page 6 of the Fall 2001 Report incorrectly identified the Arkansas General Assembly as controlled by Republicans. Read more

Censorship incidents rise after Sept. 11

The terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, have had an effect on the lives of all Americans. But few might have anticipated that the aftermath of the incidents would have been felt so dramatically by those on high school and college campuses.\n\n In this issue of the Report, we relate some of the conflicts and controversies that have resulted from a growing discomfort with certain kinds of free expression in a post-9/11 world. Read more

New Web site premieres

After almost two years of planning and preparation, the Student Press Law Center today launched a new version of its popular Web site,, with a variety of new features to benefit student journalists and those who work with them. Read more

Cartoon sets off censorship battle

CALIFORNIA ' It all started with a political cartoon depicting two Muslims standing in the hand of the devil surrounded by the fires of hell. Read more

Government uses anti-terrorism law to press colleges for student records

WASHINGTON, D.C. ' The U.S.A. Patriot Act, a comprehensive anti-terrorism bill spurred by the events of Sept. Read more

DJ quits after guest burns flag on Emory U. radio

A disc jockey for Emory University's student radio station quit after an American flag was burned in the studio during her show, and the guest responsible for the act was assaulted following the broadcast. Read more

Colleges weigh freedoms vs. patriotism

A number of college professors and staff members were censored for comments they made regarding the Sept. Read more

W.Va. student suspended for starting anti-war club

High school students and teachers across the nation faced punishment for acts that would have likely gone unquestioned before the terrorist attacks. Read more

Principal pulls paper for story critical of Bush

TEXAS ' A high school principal yanked every copy of the school newspaper off the shelves, and then publicly said he was 'embarrassed' by the student editor ' all in an apparent reaction to the terrorist attacks of Sept. Read more

Pa. reviews anti-Hazelwood measure

Thirteen years after the Supreme Court's landmark decision in Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier, student-press advocates continue to fight for the rights of student journalists taken away by that ruling. The most immediate movement is in Pennsylvania, where the Pennsylvania School Press Association is rallying support to oppose proposed changes to the state school code that would put limits on what student publications can publish and remove protections that have been in the code since 1984. New regulations, proposed by the state board of education, would reduce approximately 24 paragraphs that detail specific protection for student journalists to four paragraphs of broad regulations. For example, the current guidelines state that 'students have the right to express themselves unless the expression ' threatens immediate harm to the welfare of the school or community.' The new legislation would remove the word 'immediately,' a change that troubles student-press advocates. Read more

Students take school to court over yearbook content

CALIFORNIA ' The dispute over the yearbook at Salinas High School has escalated from a troubling incident to an impending trial. Eight high school students are bringing suit against administrators for what they claim is censorship of their yearbook, the El Gabian, during the 2000-01 school year. Read more

Student media prevail in dispute over impeachment trial coverage

MARYLAND ' A high school's newspaper was asked to recall issues on Oct. 1, while its television station yielded to a request to edit some content later in the week ' both stemming from their coverage of the student government president's impeachment hearings. The Black & White at Walt Whitman High School in Bethesda reported on the impeachment hearings of Austin Lavin, the student government president, in its Sept. Read more

'Killian Nine' student challenges strip search

FLORIDA ' In February 1998, nine Killian High School students who produced an obscene underground newsletter tested the limits of how far student-press rights advocates were willing to go to protect freedom of speech. Read more

Columbine wins reprieve in religious tiles dispute

In and out of the courtroom, faith-based groups and families continue to battle schools to expand students' rights to religious expression. After failing to comply with a federal judge's order, Columbine High School in Colorado won a stay in a case involving the display of religious-themed memorial tiles painted by the families of two victims killed in the April 1999 shootings at the school. The U.S. Read more

Court denies underground editor's appeal

OREGON ' A case involving the editor of an underground newspaper that began in 1997 ended this October, and it is not good news for student-press rights. The Oregon Supreme Court denied Chris Pangle's appeal. Read more

Principal, adviser clash over disappearing ads

ILLINOIS ' When adviser Linda Kane was preparing to distribute the Oct. 26 issue of The Central Times at Naperville Central High School she was surprised to find that the inserts for the paper had mysteriously disappeared. Read more

Off-campus speech case to be reheard

ARKANSAS ' A federal appeals court granted a petition for rehearing on Nov. 5 in a case where a student was punished for off-campus speech ' vacating an August opinion that was seen as a major victory for proponents of student rights. In Doe v. Read more

Mich. student challenges verbal assault rule in suit

MICHIGAN ' A student who was suspended from Mount Pleasant High School after reading a parody he wrote about the school's tardiness policy filed a lawsuit against the school on Sept. Read more

School withholds paper until election

WASHINGTON ' The distribution of newspapers at Federal Way High School was delayed in November due to a complaint from a school-board candidate about a letter to the editor that criticized her attempt to ban books from another high school. The Nov. Read more

Schools continue Net crackdown

As the Internet becomes more accessible to high school students, a variety of problems are arising regarding the rights of students to access and disseminate information over the Web or via e-mail. In Pennsylvania, a former Keystone Oaks High School student is continuing his lawsuit against administrators who kicked him off the volleyball team for making derogatory comments in an Internet chat room. The American Civil Liberties Union of Pittsburgh filed an amended complaint on behalf of Jack Flaherty asking for damages and a permanent injunction that would bar the school from punishing students for off-campus speech. Flaherty, who has since graduated, was cut from the team after he made disparaging comments on an Internet forum for western Pennsylvania volleyball players. Read more

Supreme Court weighs online protection act

WASHINGTON, D.C. ' The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments on Nov. 28 regarding the constitutionality of the Child Online Protection Act. The government appealed after the U.S. Read more

Courts limit online freedom at colleges

Three court cases this winter addressed the contentious issue of Internet freedoms and liability on the nation's college campuses. The Indiana Supreme Court ruled in October that a former professor at the University of Evansville had acted as a 'cyberpredator' through the use of his e-mail and Web pages. The court's decision in Felsher v. Read more

N.J. senator targets school Web hackers

WASHINGTON D.C. ' U.S. Sen. Robert Torricelli, D-N.J., introduced the School Website Protection Act in August, aiming to imprison hackers who disrupt school computers. The legislation, S 1252, implicates anyone who 'knowingly causes the transmission of a program, information, code, or command, and as a result of such contact, intentionally affects or impairs without authorization a computer of an elementary school or secondary school or institution of higher education.' The bill, however, is failing to garner much support on Capitol Hill due in part to the concerns of student-rights advocates and Internet experts who find its potentially expansive scope troubling. Read more

Ark. adopts filtering measure for schools

ARKANSAS -- Gov. Mike Huckabee signed a law, 2001 Ark. Acts 1533, that will require all schools to install uniform filtering software on their computers.\n\n HB 1003 won approval in April after sponsors withdrew a portion that would have required public libraries to comply.\n\n The state is currently evaluating software programs. Read more

Judge rules Va. law violates free speech

VIRGINIA -- A state law designed to restrict Internet material considered harmful to children was ruled unconstitutional by a federal judge in October.\n\n The opinion of U.S. Read more

Here Comes the Sun

For reporters at Auburn University's newspaper, The Plainsman, trying to get into a board of trustees meeting was like hitting a brick wall. Read more

U. of Kentucky, paper reach deal on release of employee records

KENTUCKY ' University of Kentucky officials have released employee records previously denied to the student newspaper after being threatened with a lawsuit in Fayette County Circuit Court. While employees' identities will remain undisclosed, their race, gender and ages will be released in a database made available to the Kentucky Kernal. Wanting to avoid a lawsuit, the administration offered a compromise to the newspaper. Read more

Journalism groups question Fla. autopsy photo law

FLORIDA ' Five journalism organizations, including the Student Press Law Center, signed on to the Independent Florida Alligator's case that questions the constitutionality of the Earnhardt Family Protection Act. The friend-of-the-court brief, filed in November, supports the University of Florida newspaper's case. Read more

Supreme Court hears FERPA case

WASHINGTON, D.C. ' The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments this fall in Falvo v. Owasso Independent School District, a case involving the federal statute that regulates the release of student education records. Kristja J. Read more

Court rules bus driver information is public

WISCONSIN ' A appeals court in Madison ruled in November that the Milwaukee Public School District must release information about its bus drivers and their driving records. The 2-1 ruling upheld a previous decision that the school district should release the names of 1,400 drivers once they had been given a chance to object. Read more

New trial granted in teacher-privacy case

MINNESOTA -- A state appeals court has ordered a new trial in a teacher's defamation and emotional distress claim against her former school.\n\n Teacher Katherine Navarre filed the lawsuit in 1997 after school administrators spoke to parents and the media about complaints made about her teaching. Read more

Citizens seek records of Iowa foundations

IOWA -- A group of citizens are threatening to sue the Iowa Board of Regents if records of the nonprofit foundations for Iowa State University, the University of Iowa and the University of Northern Iowa are not opened to the public.\n\n The group's spokesman, Arlen Nicholls, submitted a letter to the board outlining Iowa's Open Records Law and asking the board to make the records public. Read more

Admissions files private, Wis. appeals court rules

WISCONSIN ' The Center for Equal Opportunity, a national advocacy group that opposes racial preferences in college admissions, is appealing a court decision that supported the University of Wisconsin System in refusing to share their applicants' race information and test scores for research purposes. The Center sued the university for denying access to admissions information of applicants to the medical and law schools. Read more

Book records open under state FOI law

NEW YORK ' An appeals court ruled in November that the State University of New York at Albany must share its faculty's course book lists with Mary Jane Books, an off-campus store that competes with the university-affiliated Barnes & Noble. The unanimous decision by the Appellate Division of New York's Supreme Court grants the public access to the lists. Read more

Conn. agencies fail access test

CONNECTICUT ' According to a study released in November, only 10 of 68 state agencies complied with public records requests guaranteed by the state Freedom of Information Act. The study was conducted by 23 Southern Connecticut State University journalism students, who asked for work-attendance records for the highest-paid or top officials at state agencies. Read more

Georgetown amends hearing policy

WASHINGTON, D.C. ' Debbie Shick was given a choice. After her son's death in 1999 following a fight with another student near his Georgetown University campus, school officials told Shick she would have to sign a confidentiality agreement preventing her from telling David's siblings the outcome of the disciplinary hearing against the student she believed was responsible for her son's death. Read more

Maine newspaper gains access to police log

MAINE ' The Free Press, University of Southern Maine's newspaper, was granted access to campus police records after threatening the university with a lawsuit. In previous years, The Free Press was given access to a special 'Clery Act notebook' said to include all criminal activity on campus. Read more

Crime reports probed at 4 schools

The U.S. Department of Education is conducting investigations at four colleges that allegedly failed to properly report crime statistics as required by law. The DOE visited St. Read more

TV station drops lawsuit for U. of Missouri records

MISSOURI ' A lawsuit filed against the University of Missouri by Kansas City television station WDAF/Fox 4 was dropped in September. The lawsuit claimed the university was in violation of the state's sunshine law when it refused to disclose information from campus disciplinary proceedings involving violent crimes and non-forcible sex offenses occurring between 1996 and 1999. The station is being sold, and 'has no interest in pursuing the story,' said Jean Maneke, attorney for the Fox station. Read more

Notes or Evidence?

Click here for the updated legal guide Read more

Who controls the purse strings at your newspaper?

When an alumnus of Middle Tennessee State University heard the university was contemplating a proposal to switch the publishing control of the campus newspaper from student affairs to the journalism department, his initial concern was the potential threat to editorial content. Unsure of the motivation behind the proposed change, Jeffrey Syracuse's inclination was that the journalism department was attempting to have financial and thus editorial control over Sidelines. He viewed the move as a threat to the students' press rights. 'I don't see how the paper could be completely editorial independent if it is under the journalism department, where there is a possibility of [professors] having some editorial control,' he said. In the end the university decided to leave the newspaper under the supervision of student affairs. Read more

Editor narrowly avoids dismissal

LOUISIANA ' The campus newspaper and student government at Northwestern State University fought a heated battle this fall that almost led to the dismissal of the student newspaper editor. In a 23-4 vote, the student senate decided to remove Rondray Hill as editor of The Current Sauce for refusing to publish the minutes of student senate meetings. Read more

Indian mascot creates stir for student media in Minn.

MINNESOTA ' The student government at St. Cloud State University passed and then rescinded a motion requiring a conduct code violation be filed against any student-media organization that uses American Indian nicknames and logos in news content. The motion passed on Nov. Read more

Student fees case settled

OHIO ' Students from Miami University who were suing the university for prohibiting the use of student fees for student religious groups but not for other ideological organizations settled out of court in September. Eleven former and current students brought the suit in June 1999. Read more

One editor fairs better than another in appeal

GEORGIA ' The president of Georgia State University decided to reverse the punishment given to one student editor and uphold the sanctions imposed on another editor. The decisions stem from a case last spring involving the student newspaper, The Signal. Former editor Stephen Ericson and former perspectives editor Bradford Pilcher were punished for not running certain letters to the editor. In September, President Carl Patton chose to grant Pilcher's appeal, and overturned all the sanctions placed on him. Read more

Thieves swipe thousands of papers

Newspaper thieves swept through 10 campuses this fall, making the semester one of highest on record for thefts. Read more

Some thieves punished, while others get away

Three newspapers that experienced thefts last spring had varying degrees of success when attempting to punish the culprits. Read more

Radio station rocked by format change

NEW JERSEY ' Seton Hall University is forcing its student-run radio station to change its format of predominately hard-rock music by the first of the year. For the past 15 years, the New Jersey radio station WSOU-FM has won numerous awards for being on the cutting edge of hard-rock and heavy-metal programming, but the university now claims this style of music is 'inconsistent' with the mission of the faith-based school. Read more

Tufts magazine escapes harassment charge

MASSACHUSETTS ' Sexual harassment charges were filed at Tufts University against a politically conservative campus magazine in October. The Oct. Read more

Embattled adviser receives pay raise, faces new snag

MARYLAND ' A beleaguered college newspaper adviser had $4,000 in pay penalty restored in October ' good news that was tempered by a new round of sanctions against the student publication. William Lawbaugh, a professor at Mount St. Read more

Rutgers official collects copies of 2 magazines

NEW JERSEY ' Two publications with different agendas teamed up to fight censorship at Cook College, located on the New Brunswick campus of Rutgers University. October issues of Caellian and The Medium were removed from their respective distribution bins by Cook Campus Center Director Francine Corley. Read more

Fake paper sparks policy review

WASHINGTON, D.C. ' A proposal at Georgetown University would curtail the right of students to publish works anonymously or under a pseudonym. A committee comprised of four students and four faculty members drafted an addendum to the university's policy on speech and expression, giving the vice president the ability to confiscate anonymous publications. Read more

President not amused by sexy drink specials

CONNECTICUT ' Central Connecticut State University President Richard Judd opened his copy of the student newspaper, The Recorder, one September morning and read on page 10, 'How does having Sex on the Beach or an Orgasm sound?' Judd did not think the advertisement referencing two popular drink names served at a local eatery, Elmer's, was appropriate. Read more

N.Y. paper told not to run rival college's ads

NEW YORK ' The Tangerine, the student newspaper at Utica College, was told directly by the college's president not to run an advertisement for a competing educational institution in September. SUNY Institute of Technology, another college in Utica, paid to advertise its fall open house in The Tangerine. The ad infuriated Utica President Todd Hutton, who sent an e-mail to the paper's faculty adviser, Kim Landon, telling her not to publish similar ads in the future. 'This is absolutely inexcusable,' Hutton wrote. Read more

Mo. paper has trouble collecting ad payments

MISSOURI ' A debate erupted this semester over whether college departments should pay for ads in St. Read more

Calif. law protects people who report school threats

CALIFORNIA ' A new California statute provides immunity to journalists from potential libel suits when reporting acts and threats of school violence. Under the law, any citizen is protected from liability for defamation if they communicate information to a school official regarding the potential for physical harm to a person on school grounds. Read more

Military school targets Internet sites in lawsuit

WISCONSIN ' A military academy filed a libel suit against a parent of a former student and a law firm, claiming their respective Web sites damaged the school's reputation. In the suit filed in May, St. Read more

Underground paper case settled

FLORIDA ' Following the settlement of a libel suit involving Leon High School, students will probably think twice before publishing offensive comments about their teachers and administrators. The 3-year-old case was settled in October a few days before going to trial. Read more

Tough Calls

Chris Ransick claims he was removed from his job for refusing to perform prior review. Barbara Lach-Smith alleges her contract was not renewed in retaliation for a newspaper story uncovering an outrageous severance package given to her university's ex-president. Toby Eichas is suing his former high school after he was forced out by administrators who had problems with the content of the school's newspaper. John Schmitt's suit alleges that he was removed because university officials took issue with stories that showed their school in an unfavorable light. The common thread: Advisers who chose to maintain their journalistic principles ' and as a result lost their jobs. Their situations are by no means unique, as every year there are several advisers removed from their posts by disgruntled administrators. Read more