This New York Times story from July 2018 quotes SPLC’s Mike Hiestand: “We live in a democracy where the First Amendment isn’t instinctive. It’s learned and nurtured, and we certainly are not providing a whole lot of opportunity for students to learn the First Amendment in a firsthand way.”
From a 2017 column by The Washington Post’s Margaret Sullivan: “In recent months, millions of dollars in donations have rained down upon journalism organizations … But one tiny outfit, working out of a windowless Washington office, has not benefited. That’s unfortunate since its constituency — vast numbers of high school and college journalists — is far bigger than the number of professional journalists.”
From a 2017 Columbia Journalism Review story: “Groups like the SPLC — dedicated to First Amendment and media law, and doing impactful work, but not as well known as some of its bigger brethren — deserve attention.”
Original reporting by Student Press Law Center can be found here.
Here’s news coverage across the U.S. that cites the SPLC’s expertise and impact:
Vanderbilt, talk to us. Please. The Vanderbilt Hustler, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tenn. (4/11/2020) “There is a precedent for reigning in full-blown gag orders like this at a public university—but Vandy gets to play by different rules,” Mike Hiestand, Senior Legal Counsel at the SPLC, said to The Hustler.
- UConn compliant with new FOIA misconduct report guidelines, The Daily Campus, University of Connecticut, Storrs, (3/30/2020) The ruling is seen as a huge win for Connecticut journalists, specifically student-journalists, according to Sommer Ingram Dean, a staff attorney at the Student Press Law Center, according to an article in the SPLC by Cameren Boatner. “I think the decision is great in that it reinforces that FERPA isn’t meant to cover up facts that the public has a right to know. I think it’s a great step in the right direction,” Dean said. “I hope other states will look to this decision and see the correct way to apply FERPA.”
- Reporting Their History While Living It, Inside Higher Ed, (3/24/2020) Student publications are producing “enormously important” work during the pandemic, telling the stories of young people whose lives have been completely upended, even more so than some adults’ lives, said Hadar Harris, executive director of the Student Press Law Center, or SPLC. They are covering the pandemic in ways that go well beyond the number of people sickened, she said. “This is going to be a framing narrative of their youth,” Harris said. “Being able to report this transition of our society from the perspective of a young person is very crucial.”
“What does the campus expect us to make?’ Sac State students, faculty express concerns over proposed visual content restrictions, The State Hornet, Sacramento (Calif.) State University, (March 3, 2020) Mike Hiestand, Senior Legal Counsel at the Student Press Law Center, laughed at the clause applying the policy to students using personal or professional devices to post on monetized social media. “This is a public campus. This is public space. A public university is kind of the quintessential marketplace of ideas,” Hiestand said. “You don’t tell students in 2020 that they can’t use their smartphone to record and share the world around them. It doesn’t work that way.”
- Wadsworth wrestling with race after student newspaper story, superintendent apology, Akron (Ohio) Beacon-Journal, (Feb. 29, 2020) Removing papers, however, even when replaced later, is “kind of the ultimate form of censorship,” Mike Hiestand, senior legal counsel for the Student Press Law Center, said. “That’s a pretty big step in our country,” he said. If an apology was warranted, Hiestand said, it should have been up to the students to make that apology. “That’s just not a very good lesson for students,” he said.
Student government breaks Brown Act — physical agendas not posted, The Channels, Santa Barbara (Calif.) City College, (Feb. 28, 2020) “The importance of the Brown Act and other open meetings laws cannot be overstated,” said Sommer Ingram Dean, an attorney for the Student Press Law Center. “It is crucial to the democratic process that the public has access to the people and groups entrusted with making decisions that impact the public.”
VCU police investigating stolen student newspapers; charges or school punishment possible, Richmond Times-Dispatch, (Feb. 27, 2020) The allegation that a student government member was involved in the theft of the papers raises additional First Amendment concerns, said Student Press Law Center Senior Legal Counsel Mike Hiestand. “They are treated as government officials. They are taking money that is collected by the university … charged with allocating that. They are performing a government function,” Hiestand said. “We live in a country where we have a very clear rule against the government interfering with speech activities.”
- Naming students behind hate acts would violate federal law, experts say, The Daily Orange, Syracuse (N.Y.) University, (Feb. 25, 2020) Some schools take advantage of FERPA by using it as an “all-purpose excuse” to not release information, said Mike Hiestand, senior legal counsel at the Student Press Law Center. “It’s a very convenient thing to just pull out this nebulous reference to federal privacy laws,” Heistand said. “It has been a real easy way to get out of disclosing information they simply don’t want to disclose.”
- “Mistake” gives student’s parody Twitter account to administration citing impersonation Geneseo Administration, The Lamron, State University of New York at Geneseo, (Feb. 6, 2020) According to senior legal counsel at the Student Press Law Center Mike Hiestand, what Twitter did may have been illegal, considering a Twitter account can be viewed as property and it was allegedly handed over without the student’s permission. Hiestand called this a “civil wrong between Twitter and its user.” Hiestand explained that Geneseo may also have infringed on Kelly’s first amendment rights, as they allegedly deleted and changed information on the Twitter account. Hiestand equated this to “trash[ing] someone else’s property and destroy[ing] it.” He went on to conclude, “[there] are property rights in play and clearly a First Amendment violation.”
- SPLC presents third annual Student Press Freedom Day, Jan. 29, The Feather Online, Fresno (Calif.) Christian School. “Student Press Freedom Day is an important opportunity to highlight both the contributions of student journalists and the struggles they face day-to-day when attempting to do their jobs,” said Sommer Ingram Dean, Student Press Law Center staff attorney. “Student journalists play a crucial role in our society. Too often, these student journalists have been censored by school administrators worried about the image of the school.”
- Colorado could soon expand protections for student journalists by shielding their advisers from retaliation, The Colorado Sun, Denver (Jan. 22, 2020) The bill would also broaden explicit free speech protections for student journalists to include audio and visual storytelling platforms.
- Public schools in Virginia can censor student journalists any time, for any reason. A proposed law would change that. The Washington Post (Jan. 12, 2020) Student Press Law Center New Voices organizer Hillary Davis said the newfound enthusiasm for student journalism stems from a confluence of two broader trends. First, school-aged activists have convinced adults that students have something worthwhile to say — most prominently through movements combating gun violence and climate change. “Second, we’re having a larger conversation about press freedom generally,” Davis said, pointing in part to the Trump administration’s repeated attacks on journalists.
- Lawmakers again file bills to protect student, working journalists. Daily Press, Newport News, Va. (Jan. 6, 2020) Frank Lomonte, the former executive director of the Student Press Law Center who now teaches media law at the University of Florida, said the retaliation protections are especially important, because school officials will go to the media advisor first if they want to shut down a story. “That’s so often where that censorship happens,” he said. “(The media advisor) ends up acting as a censor because it’s the only way to keep her job.”
The Future of the News Industry, According to Student Journalists: Representation is everything, TeenVogue (12/31/2019). Student journalism advocates are also gearing up to protect student press freedom with New Voices, a nonpartisan movement that has 11 state bills being introduced to protect the rights of student reporters, sometimes against policies imposed by their own universities and communities that seek to silence them (according to the Student Press Law Center, currently there are only 14 states with laws protecting the First Amendment rights of student journalists). They aren’t just keeping up with “traditional” news coverage; young reporters are often defining it.
- EDITORIAL: KEEP NEWS SCENES OPEN TO REPORTERS: SPLC RIGHTLY BACKS VERDE AFTER INCIDENT, Verde magazine, Palo Alto, Calif. (Nov. 26, 2019) “The school’s potentially strongest argument — student safety — was … nullified by the principal’s ‘all clear’ announcement and the establishment of a barricade PRIOR to your staff showing up to do their jobs,” Student Press Law Center consulting attorney Mike Hiestand stated in an email regarding the incident.
- Commentary: CCM student newspaper says administration creates ‘culture of fear, MorristownGreen.com, Morristown, N.J. (Nov. 22, 2019) To close his public comments, Anthony Ingham, a Youngtown news editor, read excerpts of a letter from a senior legal counsel with the Student Press Law Center responding to the Youngstown staff’s formidable challenges. Part of the letter stated: “The law is clear: At a public college or university, the student editor is responsible for making all decisions regarding the editorial content in his or her student publication. School officials, while they may act in an advisory role, are required to exercise a strictly ‘hands-off’ approach … “It is clear that CCM officials are in desperate need of a First Amendment refresher course. They have taken and threatened multiple actions that raise serious legal concerns, including their removal of your advisor and cuts to your budget for reasons that seem very clearly tied to their unhappiness with the journalism you are practicing.
- Copyright Law and Student Journalism, Edutopia.com (Nov. 19, 2019) “It sure would make life a lot easier if I could just say, ‘Yeah, use 30 seconds and you’re good,’” SPLC Senior Legal Counsel Mike Hiestand said. “Unfortunately, that is a myth, and it makes some sense why there isn’t any hard rule like that—especially because all of the different material that you’re drawing from is, itself, different.”
News or ‘Trauma Porn’? Student Journalists Face Blowback on Campus, The New York Times, (Nov. 14, 2019) Hadar Harris, the executive director of the Washington-based Student Press Law Center, said she saw the incidents at Harvard and Northwestern as a reflection of a polarized society beyond colleges. She said student journalists often face the pressure of reporting in real time to a wider audience, and may not have all the training and support they need. On most large college campuses, including Northwestern’s, students manage, write and publish newspapers independently. Some publications have faculty advisers, but the final editorial decisions are generally made by students. “No one wants to be sexist or racist or homophobic,” Ms. Harris said. “There needs to be training to enable student journalists to really cover these complicated issues without being buffeted by political concerns.”
- Northwestern student paper faces nationwide fallout after apologizing for news coverage, The Philadelphia Inquirer, (Nov. 14, 2019) The student editors’ reaction was a “reflection of our polarized society,” said Hadar Harris, executive director of the Student Press Law Center, a Washington nonprofit that defends the First Amendment rights of high school and college journalists. “Student journalists mistakenly feel pulled by all political sides.” When they apologized, the Northwestern journalists demonstrated an all-too-common characteristic of student reporting, Harris said. “A culture of censorship and self-censorship is seeping into student journalism. Journalists are second-guessing how to do a story for readers who are not understanding the fundamental role of journalists.” At the heart of this shift in standards, Harris said, is the Hazelwood decision of 1988, in which the U.S. Supreme Court decided that student journalists could be subject to censorship by school administrators for “any legitimate pedagogical concern.”
- The case of the missing Radford University newspapers is partially cracked. But whodunit isn’t being shared. The Washington Post, (Nov. 11, 2019) Mike Hiestand, senior legal counsel with the Student Press Law Center, agrees that the students have a legitimate claim against the school. “This is a government employee, and he trashed the newspapers because he didn’t want people to read them for whatever reason,” Hiestand said. “If that’s not a First Amendment violation, I don’t know what is.” Hiestand said it’s also a mistake for the university to say that no crime occurred because the papers are free. “We always remind universities and police that just because a paper is distributed for free doesn’t mean they are free,” he said. “They are paid for by advertisers and by student activity fees. It’s like a subscription. There is a value to these papers. They are not free.”
Student Newspaper Adviser Punished for Critical Coverage, Inside Higher Ed, (Oct. 22, 2019) Mike Hiestand, senior legal counsel for the Student Press Law Center, a nonprofit that advocates for the First Amendment rights of student journalists, said he was skeptical about Diablo Valley administrators’ stated reason for not rehiring Gallo. “It seems to push the imagination a little bit,” he said, noting that laws that protect student publication advisers in California don’t distinguish between adjunct or full-time professors. “School officials really need to get on board with what the law allows,” Hiestand said. “The fact that they can punish advisers for what the student media publishes, that’s just out of touch.”
Southeast department sends email violating student privacy, The Arrow, Southeast Missouri State University, Cape Girardeau, Missouri, (Oct. 8, 2019) Sommer Ingram Dean, the staff attorney for the Student Press Law Center – an organization that aims to protect press freedom rights – said the definition of what falls under an education record has caused some confusion over the years. She said students’ grades will always fall under this category.
- Editorial: We’re the Voice that’s here to listen, The Washtenaw Voice, Washtenaw Community College, Ann Arbor, Mich. “The purpose of the First Amendment is to limit the interference by government officials in our speech, and public university officials, public community college officials, they’re public officials or government officials,” said Mike Hiestand senior legal counsel at the Student Press Law Center. “The fact that you’re getting the scholarship for your work doesn’t change that.”
Covering misconduct allegations as a high school journalist, Columbia Journalism Review (Oct. 3, 2019) . #MeToo “has landed very squarely on high school campuses,” Mike Hiestand, senior legal counsel at the Student Press Law Center, says. “Recently, people have been given the courage to come forward after years, and student media is where a lot of that discussion is taking place.” But such coverage can be especially challenging for those student journalists not protected by efforts such as New Voices.
- New Texas law on Title IX reporting leaves college journalists and advisors in a tough spot, The Texas Monitor (Sept. 28. 2019) “Texas is ahead of the curve in that these laws are making everyone a mandatory reporter,” said Mike Hiestand, senior legal counsel at the Student Press Law Center (referring to persons required to report knowledge of allegations, not to college journalists). While student journalists are unlikely to be disciplined for not divulging a confidential source who comes forward to report a possible Title IX violation, advisors are very much on the hook. “There really needs to be some understanding of the bind this can put advisors to the newspaper in,” Hiestand said.
- Protecting the Right to Write, The New York Times Upfront/Scholastic, (Sept. 16, 2019) “This movement has been growing,” says Hadar Harris, executive director at the Student Press Law Center, “because of committed teachers and students who recognize the need to protect student journalists.”
‘Growing hostility’ between student media and administrators, Investigative Reporting Workshop, (Sept. 16, 2019) “There’s been a growing hostility between student publications and the administration and the community they’re seeking to cover,” said Sommer Ingram Dean, staff attorney at the Student Press Law Center. Censorship is the most common reason high school and college student media contact SPLC, Ingram Dean said.
Bureaucrats Put the Squeeze on College Newspapers, The Atlantic (Aug. 23, 2019). Both the College Media Association and the Student Press Law Center have tracked administrative threats to the funding of college newspapers or to the employment of their faculty advisers as responses to critical coverage. (Also see this SPLC story from 2018: College PR offices fight against student media to manipulate narrative.
Nebraska school pulls yearbook photos of teacher’s baby, The Associated Press. (Aug. 22, 2019). The current yearbook editor and co-author of the Konecky story, say it’s not fair to arbitrarily expand the policy banning memorials to a story about the achievements of the yearbook adviser. They’ve contacted the Student Press Law Center to discuss possible violations of students’ free speech rights.
Waverly HS officials to eliminate appearance of memorial, offending language in yearbook. Lincoln (Neb.) Journal Star, (Aug. 21, 2019).The Waverly High School yearbook is the latest point of controversy over a school policy that prohibits memorializing students or staff who have died. This time, though, the person administrators fear is being memorialized isn’t a student or staff member, but the son of teacher Erin Konecky who died 96 minutes after his birth.
- Students fear rights are being violated after WHS admin pull yearbook pages, KOLN-TV, Lincoln, Neb. (Aug. 20, 2019) An attorney at the Student Press Law Center in Washington D.C. said legal precedent shows a court could find the administration’s censorship goes against student’s first amendment rights. “The Supreme Court has said students don’t shed their freedom of expression or speech at the schoolhouse gates,” Sommer Dean, attorney for SPLC said. Dean said historically if a school hasn’t reviewed a student publication prior to printing, which Worrell said is the case at Waverly, they’d have to prove the publication will disrupt the school environment to be able to legally censor student speech.
City College Academy of Arts teacher finds success with student newspaper, AM New York (July 31, 2019) “I would challenge anybody to find a program in school where more real education takes place than in a well-run journalism program,” said Mike Hiestand, senior legal counsel at the Student Press Law Center. “These are young people who have chosen to step up and look at issues and dig into them and try to present both sides,” he said. “Then they put their work out there where it is reviewed and criticized. You are not going to see that typically in an English class.”
Schrader alleges reverse sex discrimination against ESU, The Bulletin, Emporia (Kan.) State University (July 31, 2019) McCoy had no grounds to prevent publication, according to Mike Heistand, senior legal counsel for Student Press Law Center. “Unless the adviser actively encouraged and/or aided the student in violating the NDA she signed I don’t see that he’s done anything wrong,” said Heistand.“He was not a party to that agreement and, in the end, an adviser at a public college would have no legal authority to stop a student editor from publishing the student’s remarks.”
Student Reporters Can Serve Their Communities When Administrators Aren’t in the Way, ProPublica Illinois (June 27, 2019) In student media, Student Press Law Center Senior Legal Counsel Mike Hiestand sometimes sees colleges exercising “creative censorship.” “So instead of going and just pulling a story from a paper, which they can’t do (in public colleges) and they won’t do, they will go after an adviser’s job … as a way to kind of get to the students and to retaliate against them,” he said.
Students file lawsuit against Western Washington University for hiding names of sexual assault perpetrators, Q-13 Fox, Seattle-Tacoma (5-30-2019) These student journalists say they found classmates who were criminally convicted or found responsible of sexual assault by the university and were allowed to return to campus a year or two later. Their names were redacted from records. Those decisions were made behind closed doors. And it’s all by design, says Senior Legal Counsel for the Student Press Law Center Mike Hiestand. “This is a way around having to have these things handled in public. And sometimes I think that’s intentional. That the university gets to control the information,” said Hiestand.
Editorial: this publication is made possible by readers like you. Thank you. BHS Register, Burlington, Vermont (5-29-2019) All you need to know is we were censored, then “uncensored”, fell under the imposition of prior review, then created a fresh, New Voices-friendly student media policy … Without the support of both the journalism and the Burlington community, we would not be publishing this final issue for the 2018-19 school year. The editors would like to specifically thank Mike Donoghue, the Student Press Law Center, and every single media source that shared our story. We hope you enjoy this year’s final peek at the stories that move BHS.
Family Suing UChicago Over $100 Million Donation Subpoenas Student Journalists, WBEZ, Chicago (5-24-2019) “Forcing any journalist to provide unpublished information and disclose their contacts with sources to help a party to a lawsuit makes it less likely that sources will work with them, which is something that hurts not only the press but all of us,” Mike Hiestand, the Student Press Law Center’s senior legal counsel.
District backs off, allows Stockton school newspaper to run story about student in the sex trade, San Francisco Chronicle, (5-2-2019). Adviser Kathi Duffel had fended off similar censorship attempts over the years but said this was the first time her job was in jeopardy. She contacted the Student Press Law Center in Washington D.C., which connect her with Matthew Cate, a San Francisco lawyer who does First Amendment work on the side.
Article on assistant principal’s fate blows up into controversy engulfing Oshkosh school, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, (4-12-2019) “The students here were doing exactly what any good journalist would do,” said Mike Hiestand, SPLC senior legal counsel “A teacher disappeared. They heard some rumors. They did some investigation and they were trying to find out some truth so they could report that to their community.”
Purchase Line: Two travel to Penn State for journalism competition, The Indiana (Pa.) Gazette, (4-12-2019) Diana Mitsu Klos is the director of engagement for the SPLC and addressed students’ press rights as journalists, noting that their organization is available to students in the event of a “journalism emergency.” Klos encouraged students to write about issues facing their school. “You can play a very important role in separating the truth from the rumors,” she said.
- Missouri Student Journalists, Teachers Hope Bill Will Stop Censorship By School Admins, KBIA, Columbia, Mo. (4-4-2019) The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Craig Fishel, R-Springfield, said he is “knocking on every senator’s door,” hoping it will pass. For Fishel, the bill is personal: His wife, now retired, would tell him about cases where school officials censored her students when she was a journalism teacher in Springfield.
- New Voices legislation seeks to restore student journalist rights The Feather, Fresno (Calif.) Christian School (4-2-2019) “Student journalists are the most perfectly positioned people to shine light on issues within the school community that the public has a right to know about,” said SPLC Staff Attorney Sommer Ingram Dean. “Censorship is detrimental to society as a whole, and that is no less true in the school setting. We cannot afford to have students afraid to practice the important civic duty of holding the government accountable when it is the voices of these very students that are leading us into the future.”
Unusual coalition seeks to make NJ 15th state to pass New Voices law to ensure student press rights, The College Voice, Mercer County Community College, West Windsor Township, N.J. (3-28-2019) What do you get when you combine a beauty pageant winner, a pair of veteran high school teachers, and some supportive lawyers, politicians and journalists? You get a movement to try to bring into existence new legislation aimed at securing student journalists in New Jersey against censorship.
- Most states are failing student journalists like me, Neha Madhira for CNN opinion (3-25-2019) Too often, people who stifle student voices fear what they have to say. I know. I’ve lived it. Last year, my high school newspaper staff was scrutinized, three of our stories were censored, all print editorials were banned and our journalism adviser’s contract was not renewed. And it appears it was all because our administrators valued the image of the school over the truth
- District submits journalism ethics draft: Code developed after Springdale high school article raised ruckus last fall, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette (2-27-2019) Mike Hiestand, senior legal counsel for the Student Press Law Center, said there are different ways of engaging in prior review, none of which advocates of student journalism support. “Every journalism education association has said it’s simply the wrong way to teach journalists,” Hiestand said. “It would be like a principal stepping in and telling the chemistry teacher how to teach chemistry or telling the football coach what plays to run.”
- Students Step Up, Cape Cod Times (2-16-2019) In truth, student journalists have long been on the front lines of preserving press freedoms. According to the Student Press Law Center, high school and college newspapers across the country routinely face efforts by school administrators to limit or censor their speech. In some cases, the effort comes in the form of a tacit reminder that the school controls the purse strings, and that such funding could easily disappear. In other cases, administrators take a decidedly more aggressive approach, as in the case of an Arkansas high school newspaper.
- Denver high school violated First Amendment rights of student journalist who documented strike conditions, attorney alleges, The Denver Post (2-13-2019) Mike Hiestand, senior legal counsel for the Student Press Law Center, said his organization was inspired by the treatment of student media during the Denver walkout to compile a guide on what student journalists can legally do during a teachers strike. “This is perhaps one of the biggest news stories that’s happening in Denver schools this year, and of course student media wants to cover it,” Hiestand said. “That’s their job.” He added that students are in a unique position to be “the eyes and ears for people” on what’s occurring inside the schools. “I can understand why it might make some school officials uncomfortable,” Hiestand said, referencing videos of chaotic scenes inside the schools during the strike. “But the reality is that’s what’s happening.”
Student journalists hold power to account, with fewer protections, Columbia Journalism Review (2-13-2019). “By not having overt protections for student press freedom, there is often more self-censorship,” Hadar Harris, executive director of the Student Press Law Center, says. “New Voices is not only about preventing censorship but it is also about empowering student voice.” (New Voices, which is a non-partisan and student-driven campaign, is spearheaded by the SPLC.)
- State to promote media literacy, The Chronicle, Harvard-Westlake School, Los Angeles (2-7-2019) Mike Hiestand, the Senior Legal Counsel for the Student Press Law Center, said that combating the spread of false information is integral to supporting free speech. “A big part of a student journalist’s job is to present accurate information to their readers, and if you don’t have the tools that allow you to evaluate the credibility of a particular source before you pass it on, then you’re kind of part of the problem,” Hiestand said.
Student Journalism: More Needed Than Ever, Freedom Forum Institute, (1-31-2019) In more communities today than ever, student publications are doing double-duty — reporting news of schools and surrounding communities — and doing both well.
- A High School Allegedly Banned Students From Covering A Classmate’s Arrest, Buzzfeed News (1-28-2019) “This last year-plus — ever since #MeToo started — has definitely been the most challenging year of my professional career,” said Mike Hiestand, a lawyer for the nonprofit Student Press Law Center, who has spent 30 years helping students dealing with censorship. “#MeToo has landed on colleges and high school campuses in a big way.”
- Virginia legislators want to stop schools from censoring student media, Richmond Times-Dispatch (1-14-2019) “Protecting student press freedom is an important component of protecting democracy itself,” said Hadar Harris, the executive director of the Student Press Law Center. “The bill does a great job of walking the line of giving students real protections to publish well-reported, important stories, and providing common-sense restrictions to ensure that they do not publish content which might be unlawful or unethical.”
- Reporters-turned-delegates push for Virginia’s first shield law to protect journalists, Virginia Mercury (1-14-2019) Del. Chris Hurst also authored a bill to better protect student journalists’ First Amendment rights at public colleges and universities. There have been a number of concerns about student journalists’ ability to fully exercise their First Amendment rights, Hurst said. Notably, the University of Mary Washington stopped print publication of its student newspaper last year and the Student Press Law Center was concerned it was because of content.
- A win is a win: School provides civics lesson, Northwest Arkansas Democrat Gazette, (12-13-2018) It took the better part of a week, some harsh national headlines and a sharp rap on the knuckles from the Student Press Law Center but in the end, the Springdale School District did the right thing–and a hard thing, but one that is fundamental to the democracy we all celebrate and serve: It allowed publication of student journalism that was sharply critical of some of the adults who run and influence the school.
Young journalists – again – school the adults, Bennington (Vt.) Banner, (12-10-2018) We applaud the courageous student journalists at the Har-Ber Herald, the BHS Register and elsewhere and urge them to continue to investigate their school districts’ policies and how they are being implemented. Perhaps their efforts will help teach district officials a little something about the importance of the First Amendment, the evils of censorship and the folly of trying to bury the truth.
An Arkansas High School Newspaper’s Stories On High School Football Have Been Uncensored, Buzzfeed News, New York, (12-6-2018). The Student Press Law Center wrote a letter to Springdale school district Superintendent Jim Rollins on Wednesday, calling the republishing of the articles “neither sufficient nor complete.” The SPLC letter, signed by 27 organizations and individuals including the National Scholastic Press Association and PEN America, noted that demanding prior review of articles goes against Arkansas state laws protecting student journalists. “We urge you to allow your students to use the newspaper as it is meant to be used: as a vehicle for young people to engage on issues of civic, social and political concern. If the school district wants a public relations newsletter it should start its own and leave the student newspaper alone.”
Thirty years after Hazelwood case, Centre County high school journalists experience censorship, The Daily Collegian, Penn State University, State College, Pa. (12-3-2018). “It’s really, in my opinion, one of the worst Supreme Court decisions that’s ever come down,” SPLC Staff Attorney Sommer Ingram Dean said. “It’s something that we came to deal with at the SPLC on a practically daily basis.”
Arkansas high school suspends student-run newspaper, The Associated Press, (12-3-2018). Student Press Law Center Executive Director Hadar Harris said the school’s actions amount to censorship. “Everyone is hoping that the school district will review the situation and revise their decision,” Harris said. She called on the school and the district to re-publish the article, reinstate the paper and eliminate review guidelines, saying that if the district doesn’t take those steps, “the students may decide to pursue legal action.”
UI system repeatedly denies Daily Illini FOIA requests, the Daily Illini, University of Illinois, Champaign (12-3-2018). Mike Hiestand, the national Student Press Law Center’s senior legal counsel, said access to public records is essential for journalists and the public to do their work. “We’ve decided in this country that the government belongs with the people. FOI laws are one of the more important ways that we have of tracking what those government officials are up to,” Hiestand said. “It’s a constant fight, and obviously, some schools are worse or better than others.”
University of Akron Considering Private Search for Next President, WKSU, Kent, Ohio (12-2-2018). “If the search firm is saying, ‘we don’t do background checks on the candidates,’ I would tear that contract up and start with somebody else,” said Frank LoMonte, SPLC senior legal fellow. “It’s reckless, it’s irresponsible to put somebody in a position to be running a large, powerful government agency without doing the kind of background checking that you would do before you’d hire a dog walker.”
A High School Newspaper Was Suspended For Publishing An Investigation Into Football Players’ Transfers, Buzzfeed News, New York (12-1-2018). “School officials at this point seem to me to have completely thrown up their hands and said, ‘We’re not going to listen to what the law says in our state, and we’re going to do what we want,’” Mike Hiestand, senior legal counsel for SPLC, told BuzzFeed News.
- Dark Money at Tufts, Academe Magazine, American Association of University Professors, Washington, D.C. (11-29-2018). In the fall of 2016 the AAUP, the College Media Association, the Student Press Law Center, and the National Coalition Against Censorship issued a report, Threats to the Independence of Student Media. The report declared, “Candid journalism that discusses students’ dissatisfaction with the perceived shortcomings of their institutions can be uncomfortable for campus authorities.”
- Police investigate trashing of newspapers, The Crow’s Nest, University of South Florida, St. Petersburg (11-29-2018). The theft of college newspapers is a persistent problem on campuses around the country, according to the Student Press Law Center.
- Department of Housing and Residential Life silences RAs with unconstitutional policy, The University Star, Texas State University, San Marcos (11-28-2018). “Stating your personal opinion about your working conditions is a classic example of constitutionally protected speech. The most that a government employer can do is a narrow confidentiality policy that says, for example, you can’t share private medical information or private academic information that is shared with you in confidence in your RA role. That’s legally permissible. But what’s definitely not legally permissible is a blanket ‘no unapproved interviews’ policy.,” said Frank LaMonte, director of the Brechner Center for Freedom of Information at the University of Florida and senior legal fellow at the Student Press Law Center.
- When a school news site received notice of a copyright violation, the site’s adviser sought guidance on how the fair-use doctrine works, Edutopia, (11-19-2018). The interpretation of what constitutes fair use is determined on a case-by-case basis, said SPLC Senior Legal Counsel Mike Hiestand.
- Investigation Finds Swimmers Responsible for Maroon-News Theft The Colgate Maroon-News, Hamilton, NY (11-15-2018). “Newspaper theft is a dangerously effective form of censorship,” Senior Legal Counsel to the SPLC Mike Hiestand said. “I urge Colgate and local law enforcement officials to treat this as the serious crime that it is. There have been a number of successful prosecutions of newspaper thefts.”
Is KSU’s closed presidential search from 2014 an indicator of what’s to come? Kentwired.com, Kent, Ohio (11-14-2018). Frank LoMonte, a senior legal fellow at the Student Press Law Center, said closed searches only benefit the firm itself, as it allows the company to place its candidates in positions without the public knowing who is in the pool of candidates. “A university president is like being the mayor of a medium-sized city,” LoMonte said. “You have responsibility for police, housing, health care. It’s a powerful government job and we don’t fill powerful government jobs in secrecy.”
Suspended Sigma Chi fraternity at University of Northern Colorado had 21 complaints in 3 years, including 18 in 2018 The Tribune, Greeley, Colo. (11-7-2018) Frank LoMonte is the former executive director of the Student Press Law Center and the director of the Brechner Center for Freedom of Information. He said there has been an increase in awareness and requests for these types of records as a result of the #MeToo movement, saying it’s an area of tension between protecting the rights of victims while keeping the public safe and well-informed.
Five “grey areas” in state public records law, Muckrock (10-23-2018). According to the Student Press Law Center, California, Nevada, and Washington are among the few states that explicitly apply Open Meeting Laws to organizations like Student Government Associations.
TEC honors former EIC for contributions to industry. The East Carolinian, East Carolina University, Greenville, N.C. (10-15-2018). While Robert Thonen was studying at ECU and working for The Fountainhead, his collegiate career was halted. Thonen was expelled in October of 1972, because of a piece of content ran in The Fountainhead, according to the Student Press Law Center. “East Carolina University student William Schell wrote a letter in the student newspaper about residence hall regulations that contained a vulgar four-letter reference to University president, Leo W. Jenkins,” according to the SPLC website.
- OPINION: Student media should never allow itself to give in, The Sentinel, Kennesaw (Ga.) State University (9-28-2018). Like any publication outside of our university system, we have rights to open records and open meetings. We are no one’s public relations firm. If you are uncertain about your rights, resources such as the Student Press Law Center and the Freedom of Information Act exists for your journalistic success.
- Daily Evergreen reporters break major story, College Media Matters (9-24-2018). Reach out to legal counsel before publishing to look for libel and to put your mind at ease. We sought help from the Student Press Law Center and they were great.
Kuhlmeier, Springfield local, shares Supreme Court experience, The Standard, Missouri State University, Springfield (9-19-2018). Kuhlmeier has put the (1988) Supreme Court’s decision behind her, but that doesn’t mean she’s given up the fight. She now works with the New Voices, who advocate for students’ rights and fight to prevent censorship.
- High school journalists stand up to censorship and win, The Associated Press (9-23-2018). “The importance of this case was that it really did provide a good solid example that these laws really are important and do work,” said Mike Hiestand, legal consultant for the Washington-based Student Press Law Center, where about 40 percent of the incoming calls are about censorship.
- Burlington High School student reporters win battle against censorship, Burlington (Vermont) Free Press (9-19-2018). “The SPLC was incredible,” Halle Newman said of the Student Press Law Center, based in Washington, D.C., where the students called and got emergency assistance. Shannon-Grillo added the student rights group was the first to respond, but the support from the entire school community was overwhelming.
See SPLC’s story coverage here.
- Burlington school district rescinds principal’s article review policy, VTDigger, Burlington (9-15-2018) Editors at the Burlington High Register, the student paper, said Friday that principal Noel Green was re-instituting a policy that required all articles be . The students and their allies immediately criticized the move as a violation of the “New Voices” legislation passed by the Vermont Legislature in 2017 to protect student journalists from censorship. District officials said Saturday a new policy will instead be written to comply with the law.
See SPLC’s story coverage here.
- Behind the press: The Jason Gesser Investigation, The Daily Evergreen, Washington State University, Pullman. 99-14-2018). We felt we did not need to burn our sources due to multiple people, who shall remain unnamed here. However, we remained confident in the article. The Evergreen sought legal counsel from the Student Press Law Center.
- In a reversal, Burlington principal allows students to publish story, VTDigger, Burlington (9-13-2018) Mike Hiestand, a senior legal consultant for the Student Press Law Center, said that Green’s interpretation of the law was “nonsense.” “If that is Principal Noel Green’s take on this law, this is going to be a very, very long year for him,” he said. “The law was passed specifically to prevent things like this from happening. … His interpretation that this was substantially disruptive does not conform to what the law is.”
See SPLC’s story coverage here.
- Burlington High School student journalists censored after reporting on guidance director facing licensing charges, NBC-5, Burlington, Vermont. (9/12/2018) (Students are) speaking with the Student Press Law Center, and that they’re looking forward to meeting with the principal.
- Burlington High censorship could test Vermont’s ‘New Voices’ law. Vermont Digger, Burlington(9/11/2018) Mike Hiestand, a senior legal consultant for the Student Press Law Center, said the legality of the school’s actions depends on what specifically the school asked the students to do. “If this was a request, there isn’t a violation, but if this was an order, it clearly was,” he said.
- Resurrecting Journalism: Disappointed by the demise of the school paper, Fletcher senior takes matters into his own hands. Folio Weekly Magazine, Jacksonville, Fla. (8/29/2018) I think (SPLC’S) Danielle Dieterich said it best, “A big part of it is that if you don’t have student journalism […] there’s a lot of students who are gonna be a lot less engaged …. Journalism is a way to learn directly about government … how decisions are made in a community … there’s a hole there that journalism can fill.”
- Prosper HS Principal Reverses Course on Censoring Student Newspaper. The Dallas Observer (8/21/2018) The Dallas Observer has learned through members of the student newspaper’s staff and the Student Press Law Center (SPLC) in Washington, D.C., that Burdett reversed his policies on the student newspaper’s publishing powers and will let the students write editorials and stories without requiring his final approval regardless of the content. See SPLC’s story here.
- The sun shines bright on our government, Valencia County News Bulletin, Belen, N.M. (8/1/2018) The gem that caught my eye Monday morning was a write-up by the Student Press Law Center about a law Connecticut passed in June, which allows a public agency to petition the state’s Freedom of Information Commission for relief from what it calls a “vexatious requester” of public records. See SPLC’s story here.
- What you need to know about Title IX investigations. CBS19, Tyler, Texas (7/18/2018). In it’s most basic form, Title IX states that no person in the United States, because of their sex, can be excluded from participation in, be denied benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity that’s getting federal funding, like a public college. “Typically the violations, they involve specific people, but they are against an institution. So they would be investigating UT Tyler’s compliance with Title IX,” Mike Hiestand, a Senior Legal Consultant at the Student Press Law Center, said.
- New Pennsylvania law allows school boards to discuss security measures in private, The Morning Call, Allentown, Pa. (7/15/2018) Media advocates said they understand the necessity of allowing districts to keep students safe, but that the law could open the door to abuses by public officials. “Any time you label something national security or security measure or something, it’s such a broad sort of category, we’ve seen a lot of abuse over the years with schools or other government agencies to say we’re not going to talk about this … and that’s sort of the end of the discussions,” said Mike Hiestand, senior legal consultant with the Student Press Law Center.
- Censorship too common at universities like Lindenwood, experts say, Lindenlink (7/6/2018) Mike Hiestand, senior legal counsel for the Student Press Law Center, said, typically, colleges tend to be discreet about how they censor publications. “Very often they kind of whittle away at the budget in hopes of suffocating the publication, rather than just turning off the spigot,” he said. SPLC’s coverage here.
- Hard News. Angry administration. Teenage Journalist’s Know What it is Like, The New York Times (7/1/2018) “We live in a democracy where the First Amendment isn’t instinctive,” said Mike Hiestand, the senior legal counsel at the Student Press Law Center, a group that provides free legal help to high school and college journalists. “It’s learned and nurtured, and we certainly are not providing a whole lot of opportunity for students to learn the First Amendment in a firsthand kind of way.”
- Student journalist investigates lack of sexual misconduct records for teachers (6/29/2018) The SPLC is working with us to file a lawsuit on the censorship. I don’t think until that lawsuit is won on our end that anything will change.
- Prosper HS assistant principal suspended for role in cover-up scheme, The Texas Monitor (6/22/2018) A third administrator has been suspended by the state in connection with a plot to cover up an alleged sexual advance made by a teacher ‘s aide on a student at Prosper High School in North Texas.
- Teaching students their voice matters, one story at a time, Education Drive (6/20/2018) High school journalism programs combine real-world skills, collaboration and communication.
- Prosper High’s Newspaper Staff Says New Principal Censored Stories, Ousted Adviser. Dallas Observer (6/8/2018) Mike Hiestand, the senior legal consultant for the Student Press Law Center headquartered in Washington, D.C., says he the principal’s motives for censoring stories and editorials are clear: public relations.
- Got a Story? Careful Who You Tell it To: Mt. SAC’s Marketing Department confuses students, campus community, SAC Media, Mt. San Antonio College, Walnut, Calif.(6/8/2018) “With colleges these days, it’s all about the image,” Frank LoMonte said. LoMonte added that the section was “setting a trap” for leakers, as it worked as a “mailbox” for “intercepting stories.”LoMonte added that if the marketing department specifically used SEO in an effort to divert news stories to marketing instead of the student press, they are participating in deceptive marketing practices. He also said that this sets a bad precedent for the college and its students.
- Alleged censorship of high school paper fuels hope for legislative action, The Texas Monitor, (6/4/2018) “It’s just a matter of figuring out if there is a champion in the legislature who has the ability to get anything done,” Frank LoMonte, a senior law fellow at the Student Press Law Center said in an email. “I expect that a lot of us will start sharply focusing on that in the weeks to come, because the Prosper situation is so outrageous that it’s the poster-child case that could fuel reform.”
- CMA Stands with SPLC in Condemning Student Press Censorship at Texas High School, College Media Association (5/30/2018) “CMA serves college media advisers and their students,” said Chris Evans, CMA’s president. “However, in this case, the principal’s censorship is so egregious and damaging to students that we feel compelled to comment on this high school administrator’s actions. Censorship by government agencies, including high schools, damages the cause of education. This case is among the worst that we’ve seen.” (See SPLC letter the Prosper (Texas) ISD superintendent, endorsed by 18 organizations, and news release here.)
- UMW restores funding for print edition of student-run newspaper. The Free-Lance Star, Fredericksburg, Va.(5/29/2018) A student-run Finance Committee recently reversed its controversial decision last month to eliminate print funding for The Blue & Gray Press.The newspaper had requested $13,666 to print the weekly publication for the 2018–19 school year, but the Finance Committee initially agreed to allot just $100 for office supplies. UMW faced the threat of a lawsuit from the Student Press Law Center, which says it is unconstitutional for universities to withhold money from student newspapers or “take any other action that is motivated by an attempt to control, manipulate or punish past or future content.” (SPLC’s coverage here.)
- The Bill That Would Have Subjected UCPD to FOIA. The Chicago Maroon, University of Chicago (5/28/2018) In 2016, the Student Press Law Center, an advocacy group for students’ First Amendment rights, submitted 30 records requests to private university police forces across the nation. Three universities complied, an unsurprisingly small number considering that most states don’t require campus police forces to release their records to the public. Connecticut, Georgia, North Carolina, Ohio, Texas, and Virginia are the exceptions.
- Prosper High School Journalists Stand Up to Censorship, National Coalition Against Censorship (5/25/2018). Student journalists at Prosper High School wrote to their Superintendent this week to protest the dismissal of their journalism instructor and the repeated censorship of editorial pieces in the student publication, Eagle Nation Online. (See SPLC letter the Prosper (Texas) ISD superintendent, endorsed by 18 organizations, and news release here.)
- What’s wrong with secret donor agreements like the ones George Mason University inked with the Kochs, Houston Chronicle (5/25/2018) Yet public-university foundations exist solely for the benefit of state-sponsored institutions, and they do work that the schools previously handled themselves. Furthermore, as state support for higher education has dried up, this kind of giving has increasingly funded such essentials as administrators’ salaries, academic programs, campus construction projects and scholarships. That’s why the Student Press Law Center calls these foundations “public bodies cloaked in a thin private veneer.” (SPLC’s coverage here.)
- Student Journalists Claim They’re Being Censored by Principal, KXAS-NBC5, Dallas-Fort Worth (5/25/2018) “Telling students that they need to change their stories if they want to get them published, change the editorials to be more uplifting, that sort of thing, that’s a troubling sort of notion,” said Mike Hiestand of the Student Press Law Center. (SPLC’s coverage here.)
- Fake news furor at Prosper High? Student reporters take on principal, WFAA-ABC8, Dallas-Fort Worth (5/24/2018) The young journalists have received support from a national organization, the Student Press Law Center, that first publicized their story, and they say that they have learned a valuable lesson from the ordeal. “We have to start learning how to report news,” said student Haley Stack. “Not all news is just happy things.” (SPLC’s coverage here.)
- Prosper High School journalists allege newspaper censorship by principal, fight editorial policy The Dallas Morning News and Propser Press (5/24/2018) “He’s made it very clear here that he’s censoring because he doesn’t like the tone and the image it’s projecting on the school,” SPLC Senior Legal Counsel Hiestand said of principal John Burdett. “Effectively, he’s telling the kids they need to publish fake news,” he said. “You can’t publish the actual news because it doesn’t reflect well enough on the school.” Hiestand said if the district does not resolve the issue, there are Texas attorneys willing to work pro bono to help students in the matter. (SPLC’s coverage here.)
- WisconsinWeekly: Concussion data elusive, WisconsinWatch.org (5/21/2018). In a story relevant to the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism’s ongoing coverage of concussions in sports, the Student Press Law Center finds it is not just in Wisconsin where injury data are hard to come by.
- The Harassment Problem in Scientific Dream Jobs, Outside (5/21/2018). As Marjorie Kirk of the Student Press Law Center noted in 2017, after the National Women’s Law Center filed a Freedom of Information Act complaint against the Department of Education for failing to provide records, “administrators refuse to release important records to the public…Without access to the records produced by universities, schools, and the Department of Education, there is little journalists, much less the public, can do to make sure that these public institutions are doing everything they should to make campuses safe.”
- Tribune v. BYU: Judge defers decision on police records, The Daily Universe, Provo, Utah (5/17/2018) Statutes and case law across the United States are mixed about whether private campus police departments are subject to state records laws, according to the Student Press Law Center.
- Taylor students take on press censorship, Chronicle Tribune, Marion, Ind. (5/16/18). Religion News Service, the Washington Examiner, the Student Press Law Center and several other religion and college media news sites have run stories in the last two weeks about the study, which was released on May 1 by the newly formed Student Press Coalition.
- At SMU, a big fight erupts over its little newspaper as Daily Campus alumni fear censorship, The Dallas Morning News (5/15/2018). “What is lost when you lose independence is confidence to courageously take on people in authority,” said Frank LoMonte, director of the Brechner Center for Freedom of Information and former executive director of the Student Press Law Center. “It’s really hard to have that confidence when you know, at the end of the day, you’re answerable to the journalism department or the provost.”
- Join with other thoughtful, committed citizens to make a real change in the world, Iowa City Press-Citizen, (5/13/2018). Press freedom and free speech: The American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa and the Student Press Law Center support vigorous exchange of ideas.
- UPDATE: UMW says concern about environment, not content, is reason behind funding cuts to student newspaper, Richmond Times-Dispatch (5/11/2018). The University of Mary Washington said Friday that “stockpiles and wasted copies” of the Fredericksburg school’s student-run newspaper, The Blue & Gray Press, led the Student Finance Committee last month to cut off funding for the print edition … Universities cannot withhold money from student newspapers or “take any other action that is motivated by an attempt to control, manipulate or punish past or future content,” the Student Press Law Center says.
- Print edition of UMW student newspaper comes to a halt, raising First Amendment concerns, The Free Lance-Star, Fredericksburg, Va. (5/10/2018). The Student Press Law Center, or SPLC, thinks the Fredericksburg school violated the First Amendment by penalizing the newspaper for its content. Universities cannot withhold money from student newspapers or “take any other action that is motivated by an attempt to control, manipulate or punish past or future content.” SPLC Senior Legal Consultant Mike Hiestand said the editor of the Blue & Gray Press shared correspondence with him showing that “part of the reason for cutting off the funding is content-related.” He hopes the school will quickly reverse the decision, but said the SPLC will probably find an attorney to represent the newspaper free of charge if UMW does not back down.
- Missouri can fix the Supreme Court’s mistake about freedom of the student press, The Kansas City Star (5/9/2018). In an op-ed, SPLC Senior Legal Fellow Frank LoMonte writes, “There will not be a Kansas City Star in the future if teenagers do not develop an interest in news. That starts with making news relevant and topical. Censorship does the opposite: It makes news frustrating and disempowering. That’s a recipe for civic disengagement. There is no organized opposition to Missouri’s bill, it has overwhelming support that crosses ideological and partisan divides.”
- Students’ survey highlights censorship of Christian college newspapers, Religion News Service, (5/8/2018). As for the more than three-quarters of respondents who reported facing pressure from the university to edit or remove an article after publication, “that is an entirely different number than we’d get at a public school — it’d be much, much lower,” said Mike Hiestand, senior legal counsel at the Student Press Law Center.
- Evanston student newspaper confiscation leads to policy change, teacher’s early retirement, Chicago Tribune (5/8/2018). Lowe said he contacted the Student Press Law Center the day the papers were confiscated, and the law center assigned an attorney. Stan Zoller, chair of the legislative committee for the Illinois Journalism Education Association and an independent journalist with the Elmhurst-based Citizen Advocacy Center’s Advisory Council, said the Student Press Law Center is advising him as he researches the situation.
- #SaveStudentNewsrooms: They produce the independent journalists our society needs more than ever. The Keene (N.H.) Sentinel, (5/4/2018). Cutting funding for staff or operational expenses — such things as printing, equipment and supplies — or trying to make news operations answerable to administrators also erodes the freedom aspiring journalists need to properly do their jobs … As noted recently by the Student Press Law Center and Poynter Institute for Media Studies, this trend toward silencing college journalists through budget and policy hijinks has led to a movement among student newspapers.
- World Press Freedom Day: US Press Freedom Ranking Drops To 45th, San Diego Free Press (5/3/2018). The United States is ranked 45th in the latest World Press Freedom Index, falling from number 43 in 2017. Groups dedicated to press freedom in the U.S. include the Reporters Committee For Freedom of the Press, Free Press, Society For Professional Journalists, Media Law Resource Center, Freedom of the Press Foundation, Student Press Law Center (splc.org), etc.
- Hey BUnow! Happy 10th Birthday, BUNow, Bloomsburg (Pa.) University (5/2/2018). While college media are notorious for April Fool’s Day pranks, these pranks are still protected by the First Amendment. And that was the message Frank LoMonte, then-executive director of the Student Press Law Center, relayed to BU’s administration within an hour of the site’s take down: BUnow was protected by the First Amendment.
- Lessons in saving your student newspaper, before it’s too late, CJR, (5/1/2018). Be willing to use your political capital, and not just at your alma mater. When student newspapers are being shut down, or when student voices are being censored by administrators, be loud. Put pressure on administrators and donors to show they value the free press on campus. Give to student free speech and press organizations such as the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education and the Student Press Law Center, who regularly step up to fight these battles.
- Alumna sues University, claims GW created ‘hostile culture’ for sexual assault survivors, The GW Hatchet, The George Washington University, Washington, D.C. (4/30/2018). Frank LoMonte, a senior legal fellow at Student Press Law Center, said the case will likely settle because it would be damaging to the University to experience a grueling public trial where its “shortcomings would be aired.”
- CMS Track Team Athletes Caught Destroying TSL Newspapers, The Student Life, Pomona/Claremont Colleges, Claremont, Calif. (4/27/2018) “Newspaper theft is a crime and a blunt attempt of censorship,” according to the Student Press Law Center, a legal advocacy organization supporting student journalists and newspapers. “Even in the internet/digital age, newspaper theft presents a serious threat to the viability of the student press community.”
- Wyoming’s lack of shield laws explored, The Branding Iron, University of Wyoming, Laramie (4/25/2018). According to the Student Press Law Center website, Wyoming is the only state that does not have either a law protecting journalists from giving up their sources or a state court ruling to do the same. Journalists in Wyoming make promises of confidentiality at their own risk.
- OPINION: Know open record laws, The Doane Owl and Doane Line, Doane (Neb.) College (4/25/2018). If you know a document is public record and the holder is reluctant to share it with you, fill out a FOIA request. This is a letter addressed to the documents holder requesting the document and citing the relevant laws that make it public record. The easiest way to write a FOIA request is to use the Student Press Law Center’s letter generator.
- Beyond the hashtag: Saving student newsrooms. Frank D. LoMonte, Medium (4/25/2018). The philanthropic community can catalyze this change. Foundations that have invested many millions in journalism since the 2016 election mustn’t forget that the majority of American journalists go to work every day in classrooms and not in newsrooms.
- The College VOICE stands with #SaveStudentNewsrooms, The College Voice, Mercer County (N.J.) Community College, Trenton (4/25/2018). Last year Mercer’s administration emailed a mandatory compliance training manual to all faculty and staff that included a demand that, “Employees should not talk to the press without explicit consent from the school.” It was an action that Frank LoMonte, Executive Director of the Student Press Law Center told The VOICE at the time was “pretty illegal” and “raises some very serious First Amendment issues.”
- TUPD investigation localizes national conversation about campus policing, Tulane Hullabaloo, Tulane University, New Orleans (4/18/2018) from the Student Press Law Center, an organization that advocates for first amendment rights and fights censorship, Tulane was listed as one of “17 private colleges that refused to directly provide records to the SPLC.”
- What Would Happen If Students Walked Out Until Gun Laws Changed? TeenVogue.com (4/19/2018). Organizations like the American Civil Liberties Union have sided with students who choose to protest for minutes or for a day, but there isn’t a precedent for indefinite absences by unknown numbers of students. “That’s kind of where we are with the walkout,” Mike Hiestand, senior legal counsel at the Student Press Law Center, told Teen Vogue. “That’s a substantial disruption of school…so this is kind of an exercise of civil disobedience, this is deciding, ‘it’s against the rules, but we think it’s worth doing.’”
- Speech policy earns red light rating, Northern Star, Northern Illinois University, DeKalb, Ill. (4/19/2018). Mike Hiestand, senior legal consultant at Student Press Law Center, said for public schools like NIU it is made clear in courts that vague or broad language is not permissible. He said words considered inappropriate and offensive don’t have any particular legal meaning. “It is not fair to either side really, to the students that are being charged with offensive speech or school officials who are charged with enforcing the rules.”
- Newspaper thief confesses to police, The Oracle, Tennessee Tech University, Cookeville (4/17/2018). Copies of The Oracle are free per single copy, however, taking more than one is considered theft, according to the Student Press Law Center. That policy is printed on the front page of The Oracle.
- Suspended for Sexual Assault, Readmitted One Year Later, The AS Review, Western Washington University, Bellingham (4/16/2018). The university has found to have committed sexual misconduct, citing FERPA, the federal student privacy law, in spite of a provision in the law explicitly allowing them to do so.Mike Hiestand, the Student Press Law Center’s senior legal counsel, disagrees with this practice. “It seems like Western’s policy now is they’re just not going to provide [that info] and that flies in the face of the intent of the law,” he said. “The law was intended to provide more transparency to these campus disciplinary systems.”
- A judge will likely order BYU police to be more transparent, CBS2-KUTV, Salt Lake City, Utah (April 14, 2018). “If a police department has the authority to carry guns, make arrests, it’s a no-brainer — they ought to be covered by the same sort of rules of accountability that all police departments are subject to,” the SPLC’s Mike Hiestand said.
- OSARP warns student not to speak out on sexual assault case, The Breeze, James Madison University, Harrisonburg, Va. (4/12/2018). “This is starting to become a real problem,” Hiestand said in an email. “Schools are telling students that the law prohibits them from discussing how the university handles their claims. I don’t want to get [too] lawyerly on you, but our opinion at the SPLC is that this is bullshit.
- Doane, other universities do not report concussions, The Doane Owl, Crete, Neb. (4/11/2018). Taylor Potter, an intern at the Student Press Law Center in Washington D.C., contacted the Owl in March to ask questions for a similar piece he was writing.
- Concern, condemnation after SFCC student newspaper reports on Pitcher scandal disappear, The Spokesman-Review, Spokane, Wash. (4/5/2018). “As the faculty adviser, I will be working with campus security, attorneys from the Student Press Law Center and local law enforcement to discover who is responsible and ensure that they are punished for this infringement of students’ First Amendment rights,” Jason Nix wrote.
- Here’s What We Know About Private-College Police Departments, The Chronicle of Higher Education (4/5/2018). They’re somewhat common, they often have transparency issues, and their quasi-public status means that courts and legislatures must wrestle with the regulations and protections covering officers.
- CSUF Associated Students conducts internal investigation of meetings deemed illegal by legal expert, The Daily Titan, California State University, Fullerton (4/4/2018). “We can clearly say they violated the law by not posting notice of agenda,” said Mike Hiestand, attorney and senior legal consultant for the Student Press Law Center.
- Advice to Students: trust yourself, and your voice, The Observer, Central Washington University, Ellensburg. (4/4/2018). “We follow an editorial policy. If it doesn’t follow that policy, we will not write it,” or “I will have to contact the Student Press Law Center (SPLC) on that matter and can give you an answer after I contact them,” or my personal favorite, “Whether I am a student journalist or professional journalist, I am still a journalist and deserve to be protected from censorship.”
- SMU’s Student Media Company to dissolve in May, The Daily Campus, Southern Methodist University, Dallas. (4/4/2018) After an almost-90-year run as SMU’s independent, student-led publishing company, Student Media Company will close its doors in May.
- Wintrust conflict of interest remains in question, The DePaulia, DePaul University, Chicago. (4/2/2018). Frank LoMonte, Director of the Brechner Center for Freedom of Information at the University of Florida and the former executive director and current senior fellow of the Student Press Law Center in Washington D.C., said that the conflict of interest form could “absolutely be disclosed.”
- Private police forces lack accountability. Johns Hopkins shouldn’t create one, The Diamondback, University of Maryland, College Park, (3/27/2018). In most states, including Maryland, private campus police forces are “largely exempt” from public record law, according to the Student Press Law Center.
- Student journalists win decades-long fight against censorship, The Seattle Times, (3/25/2018). The Student Press Law Center commemorated the 30th anniversary of the Hazelwood decision with a state-by-state campaign to change the law.
- American high school journalists fight school-ordered censorship, WikiTribune (3/23/2018). The most common reason for censorship, and the most common reason the hotline at the Student Press Law Center rings, is a school’s reputation being put at risk.
- CSUF Associated Students holds closed election hearings; expert says meetings were illegal, The Daily Titan, Cal State Fullerton (3/21/2018). Associated Students violated a California open meeting law over the last two weeks by failing to post agendas for three closed meetings, according to a legal expert.
- DTH’s public record lawsuit against UNC goes to appeal, oral arguments, The Daily Tar Heel, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. (3/20/2018). The Student Press Law Center, a nonprofit that provides legal assistant to college reporters, sent a friend-of-the-court brief to the NC Appeals Court last September, arguing UNC was misconstruing FERPA to public access of the records.
- Concord police investigating sexual assault report, Charleston (W.V.) Gazette-Mail, (2/28/2018). “When you see those goose eggs, you do have to ask what’s going on with the reporting,” said Mike Hiestand, senior attorney at the Student Press Law Center. “I’m guessing students in West Virginia are no more angelic than anywhere else.”
- Bill to protect First Amendment rights of student newspapers moves through Legislature, Penisula Daily News, Sequim, Wash. (2/27/2018) Mike Hiestand, attorney and legal consultant for the Student Press Law Center, said the bill would turn back the clock on the Hazelwood decision to the less-strict Tinker standard.
- Can Houston-area students be punished for protesting? Houston Chronicle, (2/23/2018). School administrators can punish students for any protest action that disrupts classwork, involves “substantial disorder” or invades the rights of others. Other types of speech including slander, libel or speech that incites violence also are not protected.
- Unaffiliated inserts in last week’s issue of The Record, The Record, College of St. Benedict and St. John’s University, Collegeville, Minn. (2/22/2018). While it isn’t common, SPLC Staff Attorney Sommer Ingram Dean said there are potential consequences of tampering with newspapers.
- Bill to protect First Amendment rights of (Washington) student newspapers moves through Legislature, Peninsula Daily News, Port Angeles, Wash. (2/27/18). Lawmakers are considering adding protections for high school and college newspapers, allowing student journalists to determine their own content. SB 5064, sponsored by Sen. Joe Fain, R-Auburn, passed the Senate easily with a vote of 45-4 Jan. 19. The bill was passed by the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee on Thursday.
- Can Houston-area students be punished for protesting? Houston Chronicle (2/23/2018) “I think certainly no one would argue walking out of class while school is in session is disruptive and will not be legally protected,” said Mike Hiestand, senior legal consultant to the Student Press Law Center … Hiestand, however, said schools cannot tack on additional punishments because a student is protesting.
- What part of state law does WCSD not understand? Reno (Nev.) Gazette Journal, (2/20/2018) The senior legal consultant for the Student Law Press Center in Washington, D.C., Mike Hiestand, weighed in and called WCSD’s decision to control a yearbook’s content as “absolutely ridiculous … Yearbook is every bit as much a journalistic enterprise as a student newspaper or other student media.”
- Students, free speech advocates outraged over WCSD policy that would censor yearbooks, Reno (Nev.) Gazette-Journal (2/16/2018). A proposed Washoe County School District regulation that would censor what students can publish in yearbooks likely violates a recently passed Nevada law that protects students’ First Amendment rights, says Washoe County student journalists and student free speech experts.
- After finding nationwide support, Utah high school journalists are considering the next steps in their censorship battle with administration, The Salt Lake Tribune, Salt Lake City, Nev. (1/27/2018) “One of the big misconceptions is it gives schools unlimited ability to censor students,” said Mike Hiestand senior legal counsel for the Student Press Law Center. “Hazelwood doesn’t apply to every case. And even if Hazelwood does apply, there still is a standard. Schools have to show there is a reasonable educational justification for their action.”
- Louisiana Teacher’s Arrest Wasn’t the Only Time School Boards Tried to Block Free Speech, Education Week (1/11/18). A Louisiana teacher was arrested after speaking at a school board meeting, which the SPLC says is part of a trend of school boards restricting public comment.
- College Media Year in Review: Defending Free Speech for Students, MediaShift (12/27/17). College Media Association President Chris Evans looks at ways colleges have tried to take independence from student publications — and how students are fighting back.
- Guest Column: A high-profile media clash inspires a student journalist, Reporter Newspapers (12/16/17). In a guest column, Eddie Samuels, a managing editor for The Tufts Daily, chronicles his newspaper’s experience in getting a cease and desist letter from former White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci.
- NCAC Joins FIRE and SPLC to Support Student Press Freedom at Texas State University, National Coalition Against Censorship (12/8/17). In a blog post, NCAC announces they have co-signed a letter which demands freedom of speech and freedom of the press are to be upheld at Texas State University in the midst of a controversial editorial published by The University Star.
- A free press shouldn’t stop at the schoolyard, CNN (11/29/17). In an op-ed, the SPLC’s Frank LoMonte uses the story of two high school journalists taking on a court’s decision to seal a lawsuit file to illustrate the importance of students’ press rights.
- Tufts postpones Scaramucci talk after he threatens to sue student, The Washington Post (11/27/17). Tufts University postponed a talk by former White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci after he threatened to sue a student who wrote a critical opinion column in the student newspaper, The Tufts Daily.
- Restart the presses: Despite challenges, student publications revived throughout mid-valley, Corvallis (Ore.) Gazette-Times (11/19/2017) Mike Hiestand, senior legal adviser at the Student Press Law Center, said he doesn’t think the mid-valley’s experience with resurrected publications is a trend across the country. “I wish that this were a trend that we were seeing. Honestly, I think this is kind of an anomaly,” he said. “Schools tend to be zeroing out budgets, and student media are among the first to go.”
- After controversy over dating guide, big changes ahead for Plainfield High School magazine, The Indianapolis Star, (11/1/2017) While the district has said that additional oversight will protect the students, Mike Hiestand, legal consultant for the Student Press Law Center, said this kind of review is the first step toward censorship. “Prior review is the gateway drug to censorship,” Hiestand said.
- College Media Association Announces Creation of The Frank LoMonte Ethics in Journalism Award. College Media Association (11/1/2017). The first recipient of the Frank LoMonte Ethics in Journalism Award is Ernabel Demillo, former adviser at Saint Peter’s University in Jersey City, New Jersey.
- Column: Student journalists deserve more protection, Tampa Bay Times (09/28/17). In a guest column, former SPLC executive director Frank LoMonte writes about the push for student press rights and the importance of New Voices legislation.
- A nationwide movement protecting the student press from censorship gains momentum, Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press (9/8/17). The SPLC’s New Voices initiative helps pass laws protecting student journalists in several states.
- GRO removes Technician from impeachment hearing without legal basis, The Technician, North Carolina State University, Raleigh.(9/6/2017). Mike Hiestand, attorney and legal consultant to the Student Press Law Center, sent this statement to Technician via email: “It’s certainly a lousy way to kick off the school year,” Hiestand said. “Open meetings laws exist for a reason. They are reflected in the student government’s own constitution and they’re not optional. You can’t just re-write them as you go.
- 10 overlooked press freedom groups that deserve support, Columbia Journalism Review, (7/14/2017). Groups like the SPLC—dedicated to First Amendment and media law, and doing impactful work, but not as well known as some of its bigger brethren—deserve attention.
- When student journalists need defending, these lawyers swoop in. For free., The Washington Post (6/18/17). Margaret Sullivan, media columnist. Founded in 1974, the center works in a spartan rented office in northwest Washington. The four-member staff, which includes paid interns and law students, not only responds to crises, but also sends a network of more than 200 lawyer-volunteers from all corners of the country to do workshops for student journalists, intended to prevent problems before they arise.
- Fake news, real solutions, Medium (12/20/2016). Here’s some non-fake news: More and more states are awakening to the reality that meaningful civic preparation requires protecting journalists against the worst excesses of image-motivated censorship.
- U. football crisis: Train wreck of a privacy statute made matters worse, Minneapolis Star-Tribune (12/19/16). In a guest op-ed column, SPLC’s Frank LoMonte says FERPA student confidentiality makes no sense when applied to nationally prominent athletes whose disciplinary cases are already a matter of public concern, especially where serious crimes are alleged.
- School Bullying, Civic Engagement and the First Amendment in Donald Trump’s America, The Seventy Four (11/27/16). SPLC urges caution in resorting to disciplinary action to quell the nonviolent exchange of sharp political disagreements: “If it’s just a spirited exchange of opinions, by all means let’s embrace the teachable moment. You can’t make schools a civics-free zone, and you can’t ban the discussion of divisive political topics if people are going to learn to be participatory citizens.”
- Student Press Law Center director tells UMD students their rights have “gotten worse” The Diamondback, University of Maryland, College Park, (10/13/2016). “Students need to start taking back ownership of campuses that have been stolen from them by corporations,” SPLC Executive Director Frank LoMonte said.
- Salt Lake Tribune sues, says BYU police should have to release records. Salt Lake Tribune (7/12/2016). “When you voluntarily assume that authority, you necessarily have to accept the accountability that goes with that,” LoMonte said. “There is an overriding public interest, never clearer than it has been [recently], in knowing how police use their governmental authority. If you don’t want to have state government authority, you can operate a campus security department and … call in city or county police when an arrest needs to be made.”
- Student journalist In trouble? Call this man. American University’s Voice-Less Project (4/27/2016). Despite widespread attention to campus cultural disputes over safe spaces and trigger warnings, SPLC’s Frank LoMonte says administrators’ “image obsession” is the biggest free-speech threat on campus.
- How One University is Punishing Its Students For Writing About Sex. Jezebel (4/7/2016). Frank LoMonte said administration’s censorship of a student newspaper happens often. “There are some really successful high-end programs that are well-supported by their colleges that are doing amazing stuff. And then you’ve got other campuses where journalism is regarded as an annoyance and a threat to the college’s positive image.”
- Denver student withdraws her art after police criticism. Salon (3/25/2016). Frank LoMonte said criticism from authorities might make young people in Denver less willing to talk about their fear of police. “However well-founded or not that fear may be, it’s real, it exists, and it’s something the community should be discussing.”
- Fight Over Private College Police Records. Inside Higher Ed (3/22/2016). Frank LoMonte spoke out against an Indiana bill that would limit the amount of records private colleges’ police departments have to release. “Police power is the ultimate governmental authority. When you voluntarily assume that level of responsibility, you have to take the accountability that goes with it.”
- Yale’s Men’s Basketball Captain Reportedly Expelled for Sexual Misconduct. Jezebel (3/10/2016). Adam Goldstein said that confidentiality policies surrounding sexual misconduct adjudication often go against the Clery Act. “They say that everything about this process has to be secret, including the thing where we require you to agree to the secrecy.”
- Student journalists in state may get more free-speech protection. The Seattle Times (2/14/2016). Frank LoMonte spoke about the New Voices campaign and the effects of the Hazelwood ruling, which he said “has evolved into a device for schools to suppress complaints by people who are dissatisfied with the level of education services they’re receiving.”
- Protecting Student Journalists in a New-Media Era. Chronicle of Higher Education (2/11/2016). Frank LoMonte spoke about the importance of passing student press freedom legislation state by state. “Censorship has always been a harmful educational practice, but now it’s also a futile and self-defeating practice,” he said. “While schools are nervous about newspapers, they are utterly petrified by how people are talking about the school on social media, and journalism is an antidote.”
- Free Press Advocates Oppose Jailing Media-Blocking Missouri Professor. Inside Sources (1/26/2016). Frank LoMonte said jail would be “overkill” for Melissa Click, but she should complete a service project “that informs the public about the need for journalists to have access to public spaces to perform their essential watchdog role.”
- Lawyer: Policy silencing council members ‘unconstitutional.’ WAVY-TV (1/14/2106). Frank LoMonte said a city council’s policy prohibiting members from discussing closed session items with the public is unconstitutional.
- Opinion: De Anza students: Fight to keep your free speech rights. La Voz News (12/1/2015). Frank LoMonte said subjecting student groups’ social media accounts to administrative control “speaks to the overwrought and hysterical response of educational institutions across the country to social media.”
- San Gabriel High students’ journalism wins award, but you can’t read it. Pasadena Star-News (11/13/2015). Frank LoMonte said the censorship and retaliation happening at San Gabriel High School is a “national disgrace, and the public knows about it only because these young journalists are unafraid to tell the truth, even in the face of intimidation tactics.”
- The plot against student newspapers? The Atlantic (09/30/2015). Frank LoMonte said image-conscious colleges are taking advantage of difficult economic times “to rid themselves of journalists they never liked anyway.”
- Body cams in schools? Controversy erupts after Iowa district proposes new push for transparency, The Seventy Four (09/08/2015). Frank LoMonte said this proposal is the first he’s heard of. “Any time you see a new technology introduced that has potential to change the game for the application of discipline, it’s worth watching,” he said.
- D.C. principal says prior newspaper review keeps students ‘safe and protected,‘ Washington Post (8/31/2015). Frank LoMonte said a high school principal’s threatened policy to exercise prior review for the student newspaper could be a violation of D.C. code. “This is a highly decorated program and darned if the principal hasn’t made up her mind to screw it up,” he said.
- For student journalists in North Dakota, free press is getting a bit more free, Associated Press (8/30/2015). Frank LoMonte said North Dakota’s new anti-Hazelwood law restores common sense to student journalism. “Student journalism is a resource to the entire school community, but too often students are told they’re not permitted to express any opinions or expose any facts that portray the school in an unflattering light,” he said.
- Private email use illegal? ‘Hard to say,‘ The (Illinois) News-Gazette (8/11/2015). Adam Goldstein said former University of Illinois Chancellor Phyllis Wise’s disclosure that she and fellow administrators used private email accounts for UI business is “certainly unlawful.”
- UH won’t say what happened to 5 suspended fraternity members, Houston Chronicle (7/28/2015). Frank LoMonte said universities can withhold information only if it caused a person in the overall community to figure out who the students are. “I doubt very seriously releasing a statistic such as six students were suspended would cause the average person on campus to make a match,” he said.
- How university foundations try to avoid public scrutiny — and what reporters can do, Columbia Journalism Review (7/16/2015). Frank LoMonte said there is a strong public interest in the openness of donor information. “It’s ironic that the institutions that claim they’ll be unable to raise money if they can’t protect their donors’ privacy will engrave the donors’ names in 10-foot-high letters into the facades of buildings,” he said.
- Lawmakers seek to ban disclosure of student emails, Casper Star Tribune (7/6/2015). Frank LoMonte said if this bill passes, Wyoming would be the first in the country to exempt all student emails. “It’s fine to say that emails containing confidential educational information can be withheld, but it really makes no sense to have that as a blanket proposition,” he said.
- Removal of faculty advisers sparks concern about independence of student publications, Columbia Journalism Review (6/22/2015). Frank LoMonte said college newspaper advisers are often most vulnerable at schools in remote communities underserved by professional media. “If schools continue to play Whac-A-Mole with smaller programs, then the one-percenter programs—the Cronkites, the Medills—will be the only real games left in town,” he said.
- A principal yanked a drug article from a student newspaper, so it ran online, The Washington Post (4/5/2015). Frank LoMonte, executive director of the Student Press Law Center, said that reasoning — equating writing about a behavior with encouraging it— would preclude students from covering a whole range of topics relevant to the high school population, including drunken driving and sexually transmitted diseases.
Emails made public by Board of Regents dwindling, The Gazette, Colorado Springs, Colo (March 19, 2015) “I suspect there are a combination of things going on,” said Frank LoMonte, executive director of the Student Press Law Center. “People are purposefully not creating a trail so that their actions are not scrutinized. And I do think a lot of government officials have their emails on a tight purge, knowing that they are subject to disclosure of public records.”
- Don’t silence young journalists, Education Week op-ed column by Frank LoMonte (Feb. 15, 2015). It’s tempting to say that principals and superintendents shouldn’t be second-guessed because they have demanding jobs. But it is always “easier” for government officials to ignore individual rights. It would be “easier” to solve crimes if suspects could be beaten until they confessed. Respecting constitutional values means doing things the hard way because it is also the right way. It can be tempting, too, to trivialize “high school journalism” as unworthy of adults’ concern. But we wouldn’t mistreat and miseducate students in geometry class and shrug it off as “just a bunch of high school math.”