Starting the school year with an important conversation

Students need to understand the ways you can protect them as an adviser, and when you have to step away. Whether you're an advising rookie or seasoned vet, our guide will help you get the conversation going.

The bottom line is that students need to understand that you will always support them - but that your job may be at risk if you go too far. They need to stand up to protect their own free speech rights (and sometimes, they may even need to stand up to protect your rights too.)

We've created this page for you to share with your staff (veteran advisers should check it out too - it's been recently updated!) Also, make sure to remind your students that SPLC's free legal hotline is always here to answer any questions, even the small ones!
Starting the conversation

Censorship Alert: Arkansas high school physically cuts out pages of published yearbook before distributing

Superintendent Heidi Wilson, responding to a public records request which asked for any documentation of the ‘community backlash’ that school officials had used to justify the removal of a yearbook spread, said: 

"We have done an extensive search and do not have anything responsive.”

In response, on Friday, August 13, SPLC executive director Hadar Harris sent a letter to Superintendent Wilson, asking that the school district reprint the two-page  "Year in Review" spread in color and attach a written formal apology to the yearbook staff and former adviser Meghan Walton, recognizing the importance of student media and acknowledging that the pages were removed in error.  Ms. Walton resigned from her position at Bigelow High School as a result of the incident.

As of Wednesday, August 18th, Superintendent Wilson has not responded. The public records request was filed by SPLC friend Adam Steinbaugh.
Read our letter

What happened with Mahanoy?

Over the summer, the US Supreme Court came to a decision on a case that impacts all students, particularly student journalists. 

The Student Press Law Center welcomes the strong support of free speech for students in the Supreme Court's BL v. Mahanoy Area School District decision, and the recognition that schools are the “nurseries of democracy.” But the decision underscores the hypocrisy of the Court in carving out exceptions for the ability of student journalists to exercise those rights.

We stand by the rights of student journalists to report and publish freely and hope that this decision will help to bolster the efforts of New Voices activists across the country to adopt state-based student freedom press freedom legislation.

Our five minute guide
Q: I’m being told the federal HIPAA law limits my ability to report on COVID-19 cases. Is this true?

A: No. While HIPAA (the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) may limit the information a medical provider can provide about specific, identifiable patients, its restrictions only apply to those who have a “duty of care” to a patient. Journalists have no such duty of care. Where you lawfully obtain information (ie. you’re not trespassing or aiding/encouraging others to do so) HIPAA cannot be used as an excuse to limit your reporting, though, of course normal invasion of privacy rules still apply. It’s also important to note that HIPAA does not restrict government or medical officials from providing purely statistical information about the number of cases, tests, deaths, etc., attributed to the virus as long as it contains no information that personally identifies someone.
More FAQs

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