ACLU sues Missouri school district over Internet filtering

A school district in Missouri is the first in the country to face a lawsuit brought on by the American Civil Liberties Union’s “Don’t Filter Me!” campaign, an initiative designed to take one-sided Internet filtering to task.The ACLU filed a lawsuit Monday against the Camdenton R-III School District for its custom-built filtering software that blocks sites for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities while still allowing anti-LGBT sites.The filtering software the district uses employs the website database URL Blacklist, which includes viewpoint-neutral categories blocking sexually explicit sites in addition to a “sexuality” category that blocks sites with LGBT information, including sites that are not sexually explicit.The lawsuit was filed on behalf of four LGBT organizations that were blocked in the district: PFLAG National (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbian and Gays), the Matthew Shepard Foundation, Campus Pride, and DignityUSA.

Pennsylvania court says it’s okay for college to snoop on student email

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 Surprise Yourself!

— Elizabethtown College recruiting slogan

A former student at Elizabethtown College was, indeed, probably surprised earlier this month after a Pennsylvania federal district court ruled that the school broke no rules when it hired an investigation service to snoop on his email account without his knowledge.In a

Rhode Island’s no-Facebook-in-school ban is redundant and confusing

Rhode Island’s legislature is poised to put the state atop a list that none should aspire to lead: Most backward in incorporating technology into teaching.In a well-motivated quest to respond to uncivil bullying speech, the Senate gave final passage Thursday to an anti-bullying measure that includes a blanket prohibition on the use of social networking sites on school grounds during school hours.Unless vetoed by Gov.

Layshock, J.S. and MySpace justice – Third Circuit takes a half-step toward clarifying school authority over online speech

Young people's near-universal ability to publish online -- anytime, anywhere -- has provoked a flurry of legislative responses and judicial pronouncements, many of them blurring the boundaries that once confined schools' disciplinary authority within the proverbial "schoolhouse gate."Those blurry boundaries are in somewhat clearer focus today as a result of a pair of rulings by the 3rd U.S.

Virginia approves revised, journalism-friendly social media guidelines for teachers

The Virginia Board of Education unanimously approved guidelines for the prevention of sexual misconduct March 24.The original proposal—brought forth in November—underwent months of debate, resulting in the approval of a drastically reduced version.Although intended to deter school employees from engaging in inappropriate relationships with students, the initial proposal could have been detrimental to student journalism in Virginia.The November proposal included communication restrictions such as:

  • No text messaging between students and teachers.
  • No communicating with students using non-school platforms, including popular social media sites Facebook and Twitter.
  • No “ongoing” meetings with a student without notifying the principal and obtaining written parental consent.
The approved guidelines do not include those restrictions, but instead call for transparency, accessibility to parents and administrators, and professionalism in content and tone.The guidelines also indicate administrators should develop local policies and practices that deter misconduct and provide guidance for educators.The initial restrictions were criticized by journalism advisers and strongly opposed by the Student Press Law Center.SPLC Executive Director Frank LoMonte said the board did a good job of listening to Virginia teachers’ needs and changing the guidelines accordingly.“I think it’s a real testament to the power of teachers’ voices that the board of education has throttled back on the most severe restrictions,” LoMonte said.

Groups challenge Massachusetts ‘harmful to minors’ Internet speech law

A coalition of free speech groups, publishers and booksellers filed suit July 13 against the State of Massachusetts to block enforcement of a law that would fine and/or imprison for up to ten years anyone who operates a Web site or transmits through e-mail, instant message, text message and other forms of online communication nudity or sexually related material deemed harmful to minors.Massachusetts’ attempt to craft such a law is the latest in a long line of efforts by  states and the federal government to punish those who post “harmful” material online.

UWIRE makes a comeback

UWIRE has started the climb back to the top of college content-sharing services. After abruptly disappearing six months ago, the Web site plans to re-launch tomorrow (April 1).“Our main focus to start with is to get back to the core of the business, which is the wire service, to really have the best content available and slowly grow outward from that into other areas,” said Tom Orr, UWIRE supervisor and general manager of Palestra.net, UWIRE’s partner site.UWIRE is an online wire service founded in 1994 that aggregates college newspaper content to share with college and professional news organizations.While the reasons for UWIRE’s departure are kept under wraps, Palestra.net CEO Joe Weasel said on collegemediamatters.com that the hiatus resulted from a "directional change" involving Palestra partner Fox “that happened rather quickly and it happened in such a way that we were left with very few options…”By decreasing the costs to run the business, keeping its 800 members and planning to start new partnerships, Orr said UWIRE is positioning itself to be back in the lead of the college content-sharing market.“We really do regret what happened and how it happened, but ultimately I think it helped us make the changes that we needed to make to be a better company today,” Orr said.To read more about how content-sharing organizations like UWIRE, the College News Network, and the Huffington Post College could affect college journalism, check out the upcoming Spring 2010 issue of the SPLC Report magazine.