STUDENT PRESS LAW And ethics for student journalists 1ST AMENDMENT “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” THE TINKER DECISION Tinker vs. Des Moines Independent Community School District (1969) Issue: whether a student had the right to wear a black armband to school in protest against the Vietnam War. Supreme Court declared students’ 1st amendment rights didn’t stop at the school gate. TINKER CONT. School administrators can only restrict free expression when it “materially disrupts class work or involves substantial disorder or invasion of the rights of others.” Administrators don’t have to wait for disturbance or disruption occurs…up to Admin to define what will be ‘disruptive.’ Question: What evidence do they use to decide? TINKER CONT. Huge victory… Although advocates of student press rights argued giving admin right to define ‘disruptive’ was too restrictive, Tinker guaranteed that students did have 1st Amendment rights similar to those of adults. PRIOR RESTRAINT Tinker has always been a point of controversy in schools. Administrators are concerned about the content of school publications because they are criticized by community and district if anything is controversial or questionable. Question: What should school administrators do? What does Mrs. Miranda do? PRIOR RESTRAINT CONT. Principals and school boards sometimes claim the right of prior review of student publications. Prior review gives administrators a chance to view the copy before publication. May ask adviser to remove anything considered libelous, controversial, or questionable. PRIOR RESTRAINT CONT. Prior restraint gives the administration final control over the content of student publications. What do you think? Is this fair and/or appropriate? PRIOR RESTRAINT – THE DEBATE Those who support prior restraint argue: It avoids controversial stories that might be disruptive. It’s the principal that is ultimately responsible for the content. Those who oppose prior restraint argue: It denies 1st amendment rights to student journalists. Punishment of irresponsible journalism should be dealt with after publication. It encourages journalists to avoid controversy. IT ALL CHANGES… After Tinker, courts decided issues of prior restraint on a case by case basis. Hazelwood School District vs. Kuhlmeier (1988) Issue: Principal removed two pages from paper before publication and students only found out when the paper came out. HAZELWOOD CONT. Principal had issue with two articles: One was about 3 unnamed girls who were pregnant…feared they were identifiable and discussed forms of birth control. Second one about effects of divorce on children…included critical comments by identified student about father. Principal felt father should have chance to respond or at least consent to publication. HAZELWOOD CONT. Editors sued in federal court and won! Court ruled principal violated students 1st Amendment rights. Students, don’t celebrate yet...school appealed to the Supreme Court and won. Your 1st amendment rights are not the same as adults in other settings! HAZELWOOD DECISION Court stated school-sponsored publications and theatrical events “may be described as part of the school curriculum” over which school administrators have the right to exercise “editorial control.” According to the decision, administrators became publisher and have the right to review materials before publication and can remove materials they consider unsuitable. HAZLEW…I KNOW…ENOUGH Here’s what school admin can censor… Material that is: “Ungrammatical, poorly written, inadequately researched, biased or prejudiced, vulgar or profane, or unsuitable for immature audiences.” Admin can also restrict topics such as.. “the particulars of teenage sexual activity… speech that might reasonably be perceived to advocate drug and alcohol use, irresponsible sex or conduct otherwise inconsistent with the shared values of a civilized social order.” FINAL THOUGHT The Hazelwood decision doesn’t require school Administrators to censor student publications…it only gives them the right. THANK YOU MRS. MIRANDA FOR TRUSTING ME AND THE NEWSPAPER/YEARBOOK STAFF TO BE RESPONSIBLE JOURNALISTS!! LIBEL A false printed statement of fact that attacks a person’s reputation or good name. “…exposes any person to hatred, contempt, ridicule, or obloquy [disgrace or infamy], or which causes him to be shunned or avoided, or which has a tendency to injure him in his occupation.” – taken from California’s civil code. PROVING LIBEL…IT ISN’T EASY! To win a libel suit against a publication, a plaintiff must prove: Publication Identification Defamation Actual malice or negligence PROVING LIBEL - PUBLICATION A statement must be published to be considered libelous. “Publication” takes place if a 3rd party reads the questionable material. If the public doesn’t read the material, it cannot hurt the person’s reputation. Publication also includes pictures, cartoons, letters to the editor, advertisements, etc…everything printed!! PROVING LIBEL IDENTIFICATION The libeled individual must be clearly identifiable. “Identification” is made if the name of a person is used. “Identification” is also made if descriptions or circumstances easily lead readers to deduce identity of person. PROVING LIBEL - DEFAMATION Occurs when false information ridicules or disgraces a person so that he/she loses respect of his associates or suffers financial loss. Certain words like “prostitute” and “rapist” are libelous by themselves. Other words like “pregnant” depend on circumstance. Can’t imply criminal conduct or misconduct either!! PROVING LIBEL - NEGLIGENCE Occurs when a reporter Intentionally lies. Makes no effort to determine the truth. Publishes statements with reckless disregard for whether they are true or false. Examples: sloppy reporting, forgetting to check facts, throwing away notes and trying to remember what was said. ACTUAL MALICE Publication of defamatory material "with knowledge that it was false or reckless disregard of whether it was false or not." How does this differ from simple negligence? ACTUAL MALICE – COURT CASES New York Times v. Sullivan – Supreme Court decided public official would have to prove actual malice before collecting in a libel suit. [those elected or appointed to public office] Curtis Publishing Co. v. Butts – court extended ruling to include “public persons” Gertz v. Welch defines public persons as those who have thrust themselves into the forefront of important, controversial public issues. Private persons only have to prove simple negligence. AVOIDING LIBEL CHARGES Truth Privilege Fair Comment and Criticism (Opinion) Actual Malice Test Consent Statute of limitations Hmm…which of these is the best defense?