Engaging a new group of New Voices leaders

New Voices is a student-driven movement, and the students took center stage last week with the launch of the first-ever New Voices Student Leaders Institute. Twenty-two student journalists from nine states joined SPLC staff, guests and facilitators to learn advocacy and organizing strategies, share their stories, and develop concrete outreach and organizing plans in advance of their state’s legislative sessions.

New Jersey state Senator Nia Gill, Esq., D-34th (pictured above) has been a longtime champion of New Voices legislation. She kicked off the all-virtual Institute by sharing her legislative wisdom and highlighting the unique way student voices lead to change. Mary Beth Tinker tied the struggles of student journalists with the pressing issues of our time and encouraged New Voices advocates to always have fun in their efforts. Summer 2020 New Voices Nick Ferentinos Fellow Katy Temple shared her path to journalism and New Voices advocacy, and the importance a teacher can have in shaping a student’s future. Each of the New Voices Student Leaders told a unique story of what brings them to student journalism and New Voices. 

The Student Leaders have committed to shaping and guiding the New Voices movement in their state for the next year, including regular meetings with SPLC staff and hosting their own trainings and other programs. They began putting plans into action even before the end of the Institute, and the SPLC is excited to see what they do next.

Find more information on New Voices and the coalition in your state here:
More about New Voices

In other Institute news...

The SPLC Summer Media Law & Policy Institute came to a close on July 10 after 3 weeks full of learning and collaboration, culminating in an exciting moot court competition. Students were asked to evaluate whether a public university violated the First Amendment rights of two student journalists when they attempted to cover a story on campus. 

The students had to write a 10-page brief on the issues and compete in several rounds of oral argument before media law practitioners and judges. We cannot thank our final round judges enough for their time and talent.
The final round was judged by: Congratulations to our final round winners, Julian McCarthy, Shontee Pant, and Natalie Fitts! All of our participants worked incredibly hard, and we are so proud of you. 

Special thanks to the six volunteer coaches who took time out of their busy media law practices to work with the teams on their briefs and oral arguments: Ava Lubell, Sarah Brewerton-Palmer, Shaina Ward, Amanda Reid, Wesley Lewis, and Michael Lambert. We are also deeply grateful to the nineteen attorneys who served as judges for the various rounds of the competition. Not only were they excellent judges, but they took the time to provide valuable feedback and mentoring to Institute participants.
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Q: What authority do public school officials have to punish me for my off-campus use of Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram and other private social media platforms?

A: That’s a much-debated — and still open — question that depends on where you are and what you’re posting. But some general rules are emerging and a federal appeals court late last month drew some important lines protecting student free speech rights outside of school that other appellate courts, until now, have been hesitant to recognize.

First, there is no debate that school officials’ authority to control or punish you for speech outside of school is much more limited than when you’re in school. But some courts, relying on the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Tinker v. Des Moines, have continued to allow schools to punish students for their off-campus speech when administrators show that it would have a disruptive effect on school operations. That’s allowed many school officials to try and punish students for speech and conduct that in years past, if punishment was warranted, would have been the responsibility of parents (or in extreme situations, police or courts.) 

SPLC has argued, with others, that school officials should have almost no authority over students’ off-campus speech. That is, students should not automatically be put into some “second-class citizen” category allowing a principal or other school official to police their speech 24/7, but should generally have the same First Amendment protections as everyone else when away from school. Likewise, students are fully responsible for their speech and subject to the same laws and restrictions. In a late-June decision, a federal court of appeals agreed and ruled that school officials went too far in punishing a student for posting a vulgar, but otherwise lawful, comment on her Snapchat while away from school one weekend. The court held that school officials cannot use the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Tinker to target students’ off-campus speech that occurs on platforms that are not owned, operated or otherwise tied to the school. Given the different approaches taken by courts around the country and the ever-increasing use by students of non-school speech platforms, it looks like it will be up to the Supreme Court to finally settle the issue. This decision will be key in framing the argument.

See previous Ask SPLC answers

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