The Student Press Law Center is a group that I have known about for several years, but one that I never really wanted to have any contact with. All of that changed when Frank LoMonte of the SPLC (being recorded at right) spoke to the ASNE Reynolds Institute members today. LoMonte shared some very important information with the group in connection to our work with journalism students and the First Amendment in our classrooms.
As he was discussing the rights of students through the major court cases dealing with freedom of speech, I realized how lucky I am to teach in one of the seven states that has a student publication law that student newspapers are protected by the First Amendment. They recognize that student newspapers are a form of student expression and should be protected. In addition my state takes it one step further and also protects the teacher from retalliation. However these laws are only as good as the people who are using them, and once again, I am lucky to teach in a school the supports student journalism.
As glad as I am that I haven't had to call and consult with the SPLC as a teacher, yet, I now know that I should make visits to http://www.splc.org/ (left) a regular part of my lesson planning. The site includes so many different powerpoints and podcasts that I can use when teaching my students about press law or that I can use to spark discussions on topics that are relevant to my students.
Finally, I truly feel for my peers who teach at private high schools and found LoMonte's metaphor a great way to think about the struggles that they may face in protection of student press rights. "It would be like setting a steak in front of a vegetarian and saying, 'It's delicious but it's not for you and you can't have a bite of it.'" However I think that even though they may not have the same rights as their public school counterparts, I found that LoMonte gave them some great information to take another step in protecting student freedoms.
Emporia High School