Monday, May 21, 2007

First Amendment in Schools

Last Friday's "First Amendment on Campus" event at Central Washington University in Ellensburg reaffirmed AWSP's commitment to helping principals better understand student press legal issues.

Sponsored by a grant from the Washington Journalism Education Association, this day-long workshop offered session tracks for advisers, journalism teachers and administrators primarily focused on the legal aspects of student media. A morning session given by school law attorney Cliff Foster gave a thoughtful (and at times, humorous) overview of the legal landscape regarding landmark student press cases ranging from Tinker v. Des Moines to Bethel, Hazelwood and the currently pending Frederick v. Morse (aka "Bong Hits 4 Jesus"). The Student Press Law Center's Mike Hiestand also presented a short session on student press pitfalls--copyright infringement, libel/slander, invasion of privacy--all good information for advisers and administrators alike. Over lunch, State Rep. Dave Upthegrove (D-Des Moines) offered his reflections on the defeat of HB 1307 this past session, indicating he might run the measure again next year. Only this time, he may just focus on collegiate press, working to make changes incrementally.

1307 enacted into law. It should be noted that Perhaps the day's most significant discussions took place after lunch, when Upthegrove and Foster joined attendees in an open discussion about a variety of school law/First Amendment issues, including student press. It was clear from the comments of those present that administrators are perceived as controlling when it comes to student press -- and that many still want to see administrators removed from the editorial process. (It should be noted that AWSP will be meeting with representatives from the WJEA soon to identify ways our two organizations can work together to help advisers and administrators better understand the issues facing each group, and in the process, further strengthen our state's many fine journalism programs.)

In concluding, Foster challenged the audience to consider the following questions:
  1. In instances of student press, who is accountable to whom?
  2. Who gets to decide what the paper will be?
  3. What type of lesson are we teaching students [through activities on student papers]?
By removing administrators from the review process, "Are we really creating a model that mimics the real world?" Foster asked. What do you think?

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