Can I be suspended for a social media post?

Q: Can the principal of my school suspend me for a social media post on my private account during non-school hours?  A: Probably not, but there is reason to be cautious about this type of behavior. There was a time when the line between on- and off-campus activities was clear. And generally so was the law.… Continue reading Can I be suspended for a social media post?

Are student government election results at a public high school public records?

Q: Are student government election results at a public high school public records? My school only announces who won and does not provide the actual vote tally.  A: The answer will probably depend on the wording of your state’s open records law. In the only case we are aware of to date, the Virginia State Supreme Court declined to… Continue reading Are student government election results at a public high school public records?

Can we use photos of students on our school’s “do not picture” list?

Q: Our school has a group of students on a “do not picture” list because parents did not approve photo releases. Does our publication have to cut out any photographs these students may appear in?  A: Legally, the answer is probably no. The “do not picture list” applies to official publications of the school, and the… Continue reading Can we use photos of students on our school’s “do not picture” list?

What is a “public forum for student expression?”

Q: What is a “public forum for student expression?” A: A student publication is a public forum for student expression when school officials have given student editors the authority to make their own content decisions. This can be accomplished through an official policy or by simply allowing a publication to operate without interference from school officials.… Continue reading What is a “public forum for student expression?”

Can I be punished for fighting censorship at my school?

Q: Can I be punished for fighting censorship at my school? A:  You cannot be punished for speaking out and expressing views opposing those of school officials unless you break laws or school rules in how you choose to fight the censorship. For example, if you organized or participated in a protest that included walking out of… Continue reading Can I be punished for fighting censorship at my school?

Can student journalists claim reporter’s privilege?

Q: Are student journalists allowed to claim reporter’s privilege to protect the identity of their sources? A: State reporter’s privilege laws allow journalists to withhold confidential newsgathering materials from the parties in a criminal investigation or a civil lawsuit. In most states, the shield applies to anyone who regularly gathers and distributes news to the public… Continue reading Can student journalists claim reporter’s privilege?

Ask SPLC: Can police search our newsroom?

Q: Can the police or campus security search our newsroom to get unpublished photos, notes or videos? A: Almost never. The federal Privacy Protection Act makes it illegal for law enforcement officers or government officials to search a newsroom (or anywhere else that newsgathering materials are kept, such as the trunk of a reporter’s car)… Continue reading Ask SPLC: Can police search our newsroom?

Ask SPLC: Can we use yearbook photos on social media?

Q: Can we post photos we take for the yearbook or newspaper on a social media page? A: If they are staff-generated photos and not photos taken by a private contractor, yes. A private photo studio will have contractual limits on how its photos can be used, and typically (without a substantial extra charge) they are licensed… Continue reading Ask SPLC: Can we use yearbook photos on social media?

Ask SPLC: Can we publish a photo of school employees smoking outside the lunchroom?

Q: One of my photographers took a photo of some school employees smoking outside the school lunchroom. Can we publish the photo or would that be invading their privacy? A: School employees have much the same privacy rights as anyone else. There are certain places (bathrooms, private office, other private spaces not generally accessible to the public,… Continue reading Ask SPLC: Can we publish a photo of school employees smoking outside the lunchroom?

Ask SPLC: Does including “in my opinion” protect me from a libel or defamation suit?

Q: Does including “in my opinion” protect me from a libel or defamation suit? A: Including the phrase “in my opinion” — for example, “In my opinion, the coach is a cheater” — does not create an automatic shield to libel. Neither does simply reprinting what someone else has said by saying something like, “‘The coach is a… Continue reading Ask SPLC: Does including “in my opinion” protect me from a libel or defamation suit?