The ACLU of Indiana hosted a standing-room-only audience Oct. 3 for its “First Wednesday” lecture, “The School Paper: Who decides what is ‘news’?” addressing First Amendment issues for student-staffed newspapers.
The audience, including educators and students, listened as Indianapolis Star political reporter Matthew Tully moderated panelists R. George Wright, IU School of Law – Indianapolis professor of constitutional law, administrative law, and jurisprudence; Diana Hadley, executive director of the Indiana High School Press Association; and Teresa White, Noblesville High School journalism advisor.
White discussed a controversy her newspaper class faced last year when students reported about the dangers and repercussions of oral sex, including a survey of students. The article, originally slated for a February edition, was pulled by the superintendent at the last minute. It ultimately was published in May in the last issue of the school year.
Panelists addressed such issues as what school principals ought to know about the First Amendment and school newspapers, which is a class offered by J-Ideas at Ball State University; types of relationships between newspaper advisors and their students; methods of teaching young journalists; U.S. Supreme Court cases that interpret how the First Amendment applies to official school newspapers; and how closely a high school newsroom mirrors a professional newspaper.
Wright, Hadley, and White agreed that school newspapers not only offer a place for students to practice reporting but also to learn about civics, tolerance, and other issues that aren’t necessarily part of the curriculum but still happen as classroom lessons.
White said the controversy her students faced was a great learning experience for them on many levels, including how to talk to the press.
Hadley added that the Indiana High School Press Association also receives many more calls about high school newspaper controversies than the media reports because most disagreements are resolved before they can get to a point where they make the news.
The next “First Wednesday” lecture is “Prisoner Re-Entry: When is a crime paid for?” at noon Nov. 7 at the Indiana Historical Society, 450 W. Ohio St., followed by the Dec. 5 lecture “Immigrants Are Here. Now what? Challenges of Immigration in Indiana” at the same time, place, and location.
Events are free and open to the public. For more information, visit www.aclu-in.org.