Indiana school offers new course to teach high school administrators about students’ rights

The Student Press Law Center focuses primarily on educating student journalists and advisers about student press rights, but professors at an Indiana university are taking a different approach: educating administrators.

Ball State University’s new course, which began this fall, is called “The Administrator and the First Amendment.” It is geared primarily toward high school principals and administrators, said Warren Watson, director of J-Ideas, a Ball State-based organization dedicated to journalism and First Amendment awareness at the high school level.

Topics of the course include the function of journalists, the history of court cases involving students and the First Amendment and issues surrounding principal or adviser review of student publications.

Thirteen people are currently enrolled in the online course, with several more observing the course, Watson said.

“We’re trying to reach high school principals and administrators who set policy,” he said. “Our feeling is that a principal has a lot of things to juggle…we want to make sure they keep the First Amendment in mind in their daily priorities.”

Watson said he hopes to offer the class every semester. He said he would like to generate interest in expanding the class to other universities and other states as well.