Privacy group’s challenge to Department of Education FERPA regs could hamper school accountability

Today's Atlanta Journal-Constitution features a multi-part investigative blockbuster that uses computer-assisted reporting to identify suspiciously sharp gains in student aptitude test scores in districts across the country -- gains that, in Atlanta, were found to be evidence of widespread cheating by administrators and teachers.According to the AJC findings, about 200 school districts nationwide -- including schools in Houston, St.

University of Missouri’s restrictive classroom recording policy raises constitutional flags

The University of Missouri, home to one of the nation's highest-rated journalism schools, is now also home to one scary disciplinary rule threatening the rights of student journalists.In a December 20 memo -- funny how policies impacting students' rights always seem to be enacted while students are away on holiday -- Missouri's interim president, Stephen J.

This month’s SPLC podcast: Mississippi court allows broadcast of leaked footage shot inside juvenile prison

A persistent misperception that hampers journalists’ ability to do their jobs – one that many journalists themselves share – is that it’s against the law to publish images and information about minors without parental consent.One of the sources of this myth is journalists’ own practice of voluntarily concealing the identities of child subjects.

AG Cuccinelli’s go-ahead to search student cell-phones raises Fourth Amendment questions

In the understandable haste to spare kids from the brutal impact of bullying, some school systems are pushing against constitutional boundaries to assert authority not only to seize students' cellphones but to read the messages stored on them.Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli waded into this controversy in a November 24 opinion issued at the request of a Virginia legislator, Robert Bell.

Back to School Checklist: Evaluating your staff’s ‘media-law radar’

For better or worse, knowledge of the law continues to be an ever-growing part of the skill set required of all journalists, including students.One fairly quick -- and mostly painless/sometimes entertaining -- way to check how much your students/staff know about media law as they head back to the newsroom is to direct them to the SPLC's Test Your Knowledge of Student Media Law quiz series.

Preventing yearbook vandalism

As spring delivery yearbooks begin to arrive on high school campuses across the country, there will be — as happens every year — a tiny few that include unpleasant surprises (and it is a very “tiny” number relative to the thousands of yearbooks that will arrive exactly as expected.)  That’s because every year, it’s discovered that someone snuck some prank entry into the yearbook files — often after the pages had been signed off on by editors but before being sent to the printer, but sometimes simply by being sneaky and slipping it past the editors.Among those we’ve seen over the years: doctoring classmates' names, substituting an unflattering photo, inserted “coded” messages or profanity, rewriting a student bio or adding racist comments.Often the change is meant as a joke, but while their intent might have been to have some fun, there is nothing funny about the practice.

The 24/7 school day: Webcam lawsuit alleges new level of “creepiness”

From the '“OMG — If This Is True…' Department" come stories from the Associated Press and the Philaelphia Inquirer today that the parents of a student attending school just outside Philadelphia have filed a lawsuit on their son’s behalf alleging that school officials used Webcams installed on school-supplied laptop computers to spy on students while at home.The suit, filed in the U.S.