Teach a little, learn a loT
A version of this blog was originally published on jeasprc.org Dec. 3, 2017.
Private school students do not have First Amendment protections, but that doesn’t mean they have no options. In fact, some private high school students enjoy robust press freedom.
I am fortunate to advise a program at a school that has won the First Amendment Press Freedom Award the past two years. At the recent Dallas convention, my editor-in-chief Cybele and I presented a workshop to help students at other private schools make a case to their administrations for press freedom in the hopes more private schools journalism programs will join the list of FAPFA recipients in the future.
If your program is in California or Rhode Island, you should start by looking at your state laws. Unlike most New Voices legislation, which applies to public school students, both of these states have additional laws to protect private school journalists. Even without a legal recourse, however, students can make a strong case for press freedom in other ways.
A version this blog was originally published on sprc.org on Sept. 20, 2017.
As more student newspapers move to digital platforms, editors and advisers are facing a new and insidious form of post-publication censorship: takedown requests.
The requests usually go something like this: “I was a student at [fill in name] high school [fill in number] years ago, and I was interviewed/wrote a story/was in a photo/made a comment that I regret now. I don’t want this showing up in Google searches. Please remove this story from your site.”
This hypothetical student may not know it, but her request is part of a much larger conversation about honoring individual privacy versus preserving the historical record.
A version of this blog was originally published on jeasprc.org Sept. 11, 2017.
In 2004, Senator Robert Byrd attached an amendment to a federal spending bill to create a new national observance: Constitution Day. This amendment required public schools and government offices “to provide educational programs to promote a better understanding of the Constitution.”
“I hope that kids understand that in this country, everything that we do in everyday life is touched upon by the Constitution of the United States," he said in an interview. "It protects our liberties and it protects our freedom of speech. It protects our religion. It protects the freedom of speech so the newspapers can tell us the news every day."
As a member of the Scholastic Press Rights Committee, it is especially important to me that students explore the First Amendment on Constitution Day, a critically important conversation to have in the face of today’s political climate and the rise of hate speech.
Originally published on jeasprc.org on Aug. 7, 2017
Inevitably, my intro journalism students have one question: “When do we get to start writing?” Their impatience is understandable — they joined my class to become reporters, and they are eager to start that work — but I believe it is critically important to build a solid foundation in law and ethics before sending them out for that first assignment.
I want them to see the bigger picture — to get a sense of why journalists pursue stories and how they make difficult decisions during that process. I want them to understand their own rights and the role of a free press in a democracy. I also want them to have a sense of the laws affecting them — for example, what libel is and how to avoid it and what constitutes “invasion of privacy.”
It’s heavy stuff, so my goal is to keep them engaged during those first few weeks as we talk about journalistic ethics and break down how the First Amendment, state laws, libel laws and court cases affect them.
Here are some strategies I’ve developed that I hope will help other advisers build those crucial foundations without losing students’ interest:
Teachers and administrators want to help our students. We want to give them the tools to succeed, but we also sometimes want to protect them — to shield them from harsh truths and difficult situations.
When I'm teaching my journalism students about the social role of the mass media and their own societal role as young journalists, I also think a lot about my role as their adviser. I argued earlier this year that if we want students to value citizenship, we must let them be citizens, but citizenship isn't easy, and it isn't "safe." Citizenship means taking an active role, speaking truth to power, and taking risks. If I want them to learn to be citizens, I must resist that urge to shield and protect and instead empower them to make their own decisions and take responsibility for the outcome.
“And though she be but little, she is fierce!” -A Midsummer Night’s Dream