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Vermont high school students use New Voices law to win censorship dispute

Photo: VTDigger / Lola Duffort
   When Burlington High School's The Register broke a story about a series of complaints against the school's director of guidance, their administration responded by forcing them to take the story down.
   The students contacted the Student Press Law Center.
   SPLC attorneys helped the students compel school officials to put this important story back online - and stave off an attempt to implement an old prior review policy.
“The SPLC was incredible."
Halle Newman, editor at The Register. 
   We applaud the Vermont Press Association and New England First Amendment Coalition for their leadership in issuing a joint statement and monitoring this egregious incident.
   Every major news organization in Vermont covered the controversy. Stories by The Associated Press quoting SPLC Senior Legal Consultant Mike Hiestand made the national wire. 
   NBC-5 in Burlington stepped up with a televised editorial in support of the students. The station general manager said, "We applaud this decision and commend the BHS Register editors for their courage. Whether professional journalists or not, the article was good journalism, and tipped off other media across the state to the allegations against the school counselor."
Read the full story

SPLC speaks out over an attempt to stop the Daily Trojan from reporting on a public meeting. 

"The situation at the University of Southern California is part of a troubling trend that we at the SPLC have seen from coast to coast, in both public and private schools, where the role of journalists is disrespected and student journalists are ordered to only present their schools in the most positive light," said SPLC Executive Director Hadar Harris. 
Read more.
Q: Can we publish students' names and photos online without parental permission, even when the students are minors?

A: Yes. Many people mistakenly believe that parental consent is needed in order to identify students in a publication-- be it print or online-- but no federal privacy law requires such consent. If your school tells you there is a policy in place requiring parental consent, ask to see the school district policy in writing. If the policy only applies to websites hosted on a school server, look into getting your website hosted on a third-party server. 

This answer also applies to printing the name of a minor who has allegedly committed a crime. The decision about whether to publish a student's name is an editorial one, not one compelled by the law. Many news organizations choose not to publish the names of minors in the case of less serious crimes, but in either case, parental consent is not required. 

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Congratulations!

SPLC board member Jane McDonnell, former executive director of the Online News Association, received the group's Rich Jaroslovsky Founder Award during its recent annual convention in Austin, Texas.

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