Adviser’s Guide to the 2023-24 School Year

Going into this year, know that SPLC always has your back so you can confidently encourage your students to practice bold journalism and brave student press freedom advocacy.

Bookmark this page, sign up for our newsletter, book an SPLC legal expert to teach your class about media law, and explore our library of resources. We built these tools to explain the law in a way that’s easy to understand and gets straight to the point: what do you need to know? What should you do or not do?

When you find yourself in the middle of a complicated situation, or when you have any media law questions, contact SPLC’s free legal hotline — we answer every call.

About us: Since 1974, SPLC has been providing information, training and legal assistance at no charge to student journalists and the educators who work with them. SPLC is an independent nonpartisan nonprofit based in Washington, D.C.

New advisers

Welcome to the community! You’re in good company. The Student Press Law Center is here to support you. On this page, you’ll find a collection of resources, guides and tips to utilize in your new role. If you have legal questions or need help, contact our legal hotline.

Award-winning adviser and SPLC Board Chair Logan Aimone put together 5 tips for new advisers. Aimone teaches journalism and advises the newspaper and website at University of Chicago Laboratory High School, where he is also the department chair.

The #1 conversation to have with your students at the start of the year

Students need to understand the ways you can protect them as an adviser, and when you have to step away. Whether you’re an advising rookie or seasoned vet, our guide will help you get the conversation going.

The bottom line is that students need to understand that you will always support them – but that your job may be at risk if you go too far. They need to stand up to protect their own free speech rights (and sometimes, they may even need to stand up to protect your rights too.)

We’ve created this page for you to share with your staff (veteran advisers should check it out too – it’s been recently updated!) Also, make sure to remind your students that SPLC’s free legal hotline is always here to answer any questions, even the small ones!

Fighting censorship can seem intimidating, but your students aren’t alone! We have their back — and yours. Contact SPLC’s hotline for help.

Get help:

SPLC’s Free Legal Hotline

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Protect Student Press Freedom

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Classroom tools

Bring SPLC into your classroom or newsroom

Let us meet you in your classroom or newsroom via Zoom! With SPLC in the Classroom, you can bring an SPLC expert to your students for up to 40 minutes and they can present on topics like high school student press freedom, public records, copyright, libel and more, or lead an open Q&A on the subject of your choice.

Quiz your students

How well do your students know the First Amendment? What about internet law? Copyright? Have them take our quizzes and find out.

Use these presentations to teach media law

Produced by the Student Press Law Center’s legal staff, these introductory-level presentations are intended for classroom or workshop use and provide students (and their advisers) with an easy-to-follow, practical guide for understanding and avoiding the problems student media most often confront. Choose from pre-recorded presentations or use the PowerPoints to teach the topic yourself.

Policies to establish at the beginning of the year

Explain your role (and limits) as an adviser should censorship happen

At the beginning of the year, before any censorship has happened, it’s important to talk to your students about how to take the lead in fighting against any potential future censorship. The bottom line is that students need to understand that you will always support them – but that your job may be at risk if you go too far. They need to stand up to protect their own free speech rights (and sometimes, they may even need to stand up to protect your rights too.)

Model copyright agreement for your staff

Use this sample contract and license between a student media staff member and a student media organization to fairly balance the intellectual property rights of the student creators of a work (which, for example, includes news stories, photographs, graphic designs, etc.) against the business and practical requirements of student media organizations that publish such work.

Sample minor interview consent form

This is a sample release form for the non-commercial use of material provided by a minor to student media. Its primary purpose is to protect student media from claims of invasion of privacy or libel.

Sample advertiser indemnification clause

Rate cards and advertising contracts also commonly include an indemnification clause that shields the media organization from liability caused by an ad submitted by a third party. Use this clause for your student media’s advertising materials.

Model press freedom policies for student publications

Absent state-level protection, students and advisers can also lobby for publication policies at the district or school level that establish student publications as public forums for student expression. The Student Press Law Center’s model guidelines set reasonable limitations on the material that students can include in their publications and protect the rights of students to be free from arbitrary censorship by school officials.

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Support SPLC with a membership

By buying an organizational membership, you help SPLC support, defend and amplify the First Amendment rights of student journalists and their advisers.

Subscribe to SPLC’s Weekly Newsletter!

Want the latest news about student press freedom, excellent examples of student journalism tips for your own newsroom and more? Sign up for SPLC’s Weekly Newsletter!

More resources

Explore SPLC’s website or contact our legal hotline for answers to all of your media law questions.