How to fight a budget cut when schools pull the COVID-19 card

Schools and districts are making difficult financial decisions in the coming months and, unfortunately, some schools may use COVID-19 budget constraints as an excuse to weaken or eliminate student media for reasons other than purely financial ones.

You do not have to accept a change to your program simply because the financial concerns of your school are real. A few quick calls may save your program — and keep your entire student body informed and connected in the future. Student journalism is an essential service. If you suspect your program may be eliminated or weakened as a result of COVID-19 budget cuts, we developed a toolkit for you. 

If you're facing a budget cut, adviser removal or any other problems you suspect are content-related, contact SPLC's free legal hotline.

See the toolkit

Summer Media Law & Policy Institute

On June 22, SPLC will launch our inaugural Summer Media Law & Policy Institute. The three-week online training will explore the emerging issues of law, ethics and policy surrounding media law and press freedom. Legal experts and media lawyers from around the country will teach, coach and mentor a diverse group of 18 dynamic law students and motivated undergraduates as they learn the law, engage in advocacy skills building and participate in a moot court competition. Among the confirmed faculty joining the Institute are: 
  • Drew Shenkman, associate general counsel at CNN
  • Nabiha Syed, president of The Markup
  • David Kaye, UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression  
  • Katie Townsend, legal director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.
  • Sherrese Smith, partner, Paul Hastings
  • Catherine Robb, partner, Haynes & Boone
  • Jane Eisner, Columbia Journalism School 
  • Prof. Jasmine McNealy, University of Florida
  • María Salazar-Ferro, emergencies director at the Committee to Protect Journalists 
  • Trevor Timm, executive director, Freedom of the Press Foundation
  • Frank LoMonte, director, Brechner Center on Freedom of Information
  • Mike Hiestand, senior counsel, SPLC
  • Sommer Ingram Dean, staff attorney, SPLC 
  • Hillary Davis, New Voices Campaign and Advocacy Organizer
The Institute is co-directed by Prof. Amy Kristen Sanders (University of Texas, Austin) and SPLC executive director Hadar Harris. 

Stay tuned for more, we'll be updating you with highlights from each week, including the moot court competition at the end of the Institute.
Learn more about the Institute

We need your input

The coronavirus has upended norms and created new challenges for student media. We want to know what you're struggling with and how SPLC can help. Please take our short, 10-minute survey. Your feedback will help us better serve you in the upcoming months.
Take the survey

Guide to covering protests

If you're covering protests in your community, be sure to read our guide before you head out. You'll find twenty tips for staying safe while covering protests, reminders of your legal rights, advice for identifying yourself as media to police and more.
Read the guide

Q: If I am arrested or detained while covering a protest are law enforcement officials allowed to delete photos or video from my camera?

A: No. Under no circumstance is it ever lawful for law enforcement to delete or demand that you delete photos or video or notes you have taken as part of your newsgathering efforts. Just say no. If you are in a situation where such a demand is made, state clearly (and loudly if others have their cameras out to observe) that you are a member of the press and you do not consent to any confiscation or search of your camera or other newsgathering equipment or materials.

If police feel the need to search your phone they must generally obtain a search warrant or subpoena, which you have the right to contest — and which never comes with the right to delete your work product. When covering potential hotspots, you should always disable any fingerprint or face ID unlocking feature so that you can’t be pressured or tricked into unlocking your equipment, which police will often argue indicates that you provided consent. You should also consider changing your passcode to something longer than the standard 4 or 6 digit code as police now routinely use software to crack such codes. Finally, if you can, it’s good practice while at a protest to periodically upload your photos and videos to the cloud or e-mail them back to the newsroom so that they are safe.

See previous Ask SPLC answers

Support SPLC

High school and college news organizations can show their support for SPLC's legal hotline and other core services by becoming a member. Your individual donations help us defend the rights of student journalists and their advisers across the country. 
Donate now
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