Featured: Top of Home Page

The Campus Beat #6

The tug of war continues over students’ free speech and press rights.

First, the good news: In Oregon, Governor Ted Kulongoski (D) signed a bill on July 13 that, for the first time ever, protects under one statute both high school and college students’ right to a free press. The law states, “student journalists are responsible for determining content of school-sponsored media.”

The bad news is not far behind. According to The Student Press Law Center (SPLC), the law was the subject of plenty of debate and revisions. A SPLC press release states, “The House Judiciary Committee amended the HB 3279 by removing ‘advertising’ from a list of protected student expressions for high school students and deleting a clause that would have allowed for the awarding of attorney's fees and costs to students who successfully sue their school for violations of the law. The Senate Judiciary Committee removed a provision that designated college publications as ‘public forums’ and discarded a guarantee that student media advisers who refuse to censor student publications cannot be fired or transferred.”

Therefore, public school administrators, and by default, the state, can still censor what advertisements high school journalists publish (and thus, indirectly regulate their financial independence). More disturbingly, college publications in Oregon may still be considered curricular functions and not “public forums of expression,” which means they can still be censored by administrators. Furthermore, faculty members who advise publications can still be fired for refusing censorship. One can only imagine how legislators who supported this bill define “progress”. The state may have taken one step forward, but seduced by the illusion that this law will make a difference, may have taken two steps backwards.

Charles Lane reports in The Washington Post that in June the Supreme Court ruled that high school principals can “punish speech or demonstrations that may ‘reasonably be viewed’ as promoting illegal drug use.” What “reasonably be viewed” means remains ambiguous. For example, if a student wears a Bob Marley t-shirt to an off-campus school event, can that be interpreted as promoting illegal drug use? The ruling originated from the infamous “Bong Hits 4 Jesus” banner that was displayed by a Juneau, Alaska high school senior as the Olympic torch relay team passed his school in 2002.

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. said, “Student speech celebrating illegal drug use at a school event, in the presence of school administrators and teachers…poses a particular challenge for school officials working to protect those entrusted to their care from the dangers of drug abuse.” But is this banner really a “celebration” of drug use, given the fact that the student indicated the banner meant nothing specific and that he was not promoting illegal drug use? Such a banner could easily be interpreted as advocating the use of medicinal marijuana; are students not allowed to express an opinion about that public policy issue?

Lane writes, “But yesterday's ruling was the first time the court has said that schools can prohibit a student expression that was neither obscene nor published under the school's auspices.” Although the ruling narrowly received a majority (another 5-4 decision), and although the five justices echoed Justice Samuel Alito’s statement that “yesterday's ruling ‘provides no support for any restriction of speech that can plausibly be interpreted as commenting on any political or social issue,’” many unlikely groups aligned to support the student including civil libertarians, gay rights advocates, and Christian organizations.

These alarming trends are exactly why Warren Watson, Director of the J-Ideas program, is calling for more “professional journalists…(to) take a stronger role in high school newsrooms.” In an article for Poynteronline, Watson argues, “Student journalists are in the process of learning the First Amendment. Student journalism is education in action. Censorship subverts the true learning of journalism.”

The tug of war continues.

Chris Justice is the Director of Expository Writing at The University of Baltimore.

Music


Books


Film


Recent
Film

Masaki Kobayashi's 'Kwaidan' Horror Films Are Horrifically Beautiful

The four haunting tales of Masaki Kobayashi's Kwaidan are human and relatable, as well as impressive at a formal and a technical level.

Film

The Top 10 Thought-Provoking Science Fiction Films

Serious science fiction often takes a backseat to the more pulpy, crowdpleasing genre entries. Here are 10 titles far better than any "dogfight in space" adventure.

Books

'The Kill Chain': Why America Might Lose Its Next Big War

Christian Brose's defense-nerd position paper, The Kill Chain, inadvertently reveals that the Pentagon's problems (complacency, inertia, arrogance) reflect those of the country at large.

Music

2006's 'Flat-Pack Philosophy' Saw Buzzcocks Determined to Build Something of Quality

With a four-decade career under their belt, on the sixth disc in the new box-set Sell You Everything, it's heartening to see Buzzcocks refusing to settle for an album that didn't try something new.

Books

'Lie With Me': Beauty, Love and Toxic Masculinity in the Gay '80s

How do we write about repression and toxic masculinity without valorizing it? Philippe Besson's Lie With Me is equal parts poignant tribute and glaring warning.

Music

Apparat's 'Soundtrack: Capri-Revolution' Stands Alone As a Great Ambient Experience

Apparat's (aka Sascha Ring) re-imagined score from Mario Martone's 2018 Capri-Revolution works as a fine accompaniment to a meditational flight of fancy.

Music

Chouk Bwa and the Ångströmers Merge Haitian Folk and Electronic Music on 'Vodou Alé'

Haitian roots music meets innovative electronics on Chouk Bwa and the Ångströmers' Vodou Alé.

My Favorite Thing

Weird and Sweet, Riotous and Hushed: The Beatles' 'The White Album'

The Beatles' 'The White Album' is a piece of art that demonstrates how much you can stretch, how far you can bend, how big you really are. The album is deeply weird. It has mass. It has its own weather.

Music

Sarah Jarosz Finds Inspiration in Her Texas Roots on 'World on the Ground'

By turning to her roots in central Texas for inspiration on World on the Ground, Sarah Jarosz has crafted some of her strongest songs yet.

Music

Hinds' 'The Prettiest Curse' Is One of Victory

On The Prettiest Curse, Hinds create messy pop music that captures the vibrancy of youth without being childish.

Music

12 Essential Performances from New Orleans' Piano "Professors"

New Orleans music is renowned for its piano players. Here's a dozen jams from great Crescent City keyboardists, past and present, and a little something extra.

Music

Jess Williamson Reimagines the Occult As Source Power on 'Sorceress'

Folk singer-songwriter, Jess Williamson wants listeners to know magic is not found in tarot cards or mass-produced smudge sticks. Rather, transformative power is deeply personal, thereby locating Sorceress as an indelible conveyor of strength and wisdom.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.