Frequently Asked Questions – FSP Kickstarter Campaign: 2015

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1. This project seems very critical of public schools. For years our public schools have been under attack by people who want to privatize them. Are you among these people? If you’re not, shouldn’t you be defending our public schools now instead of heaping on more criticism?

Free Student Press advocates for students’ First Amendment press rights at school, and only students at public schools enjoy those rights. Therefore, FSP is not in favor of privatizing public schools. Furthermore, FSP advocates for social justice, and social justice requires social responsibility. A public school system is based on the notion of social responsibility; a private system is not. However, with regard to the issues FSP cares about, a great deal is wrong with our public schools. FSP is in favor of making our public schools better for students, and the better public schools are for students, the more enthusiastic more people ought to be about defending public schools.

2. You talk about promoting a more just and democratic society, but almost everyone in your video is white. Why should I believe you?

When seeking to first launch Free Student Press in the late 90s, its 19-year-old co-founders thought they would benefit from working in affiliation with a more established, like-minded organization. Of the many organizations across the country that Krane & O’Keefe approached, the one that offered this affiliation was the Institute for Democracy in Education, when IDE director Jalen Hutchinson invited Krane & O’Keefe to begin their work where IDE was headquartered at Ohio University in Athens County, Ohio. Athens County is overwhelmingly white, so most of the students FSP worked with back then also were white.

This time around, FSP will have access to more racially diverse communities and schools not mainly comprised of white students. In addition, FSP will attempt to bring together students of different racial and economic backgrounds from different schools by creating an online network for student publishers from different schools to share their publications and discuss the issues they face.

Krane’s first political demonstration was an NAACP march. For his views and some past work regarding race, please see the following articles and interviews:

“Hiphop scholar mixes culture, politics of Black resistance”
“Latino group discusses conflict with Ohio University newspaper”
“Why should minorities support white student power?”
“Newspaper goes from laughing off genocide to openly advocating it”
“MLK’s lessons elude opponent of local LGBT activism”
“Right wing student group wants to let white people off the hook for racism”
“‘Blood bucket’ makes big mess for supporters of Israel’s ethnic cleansing”
“Looking back on 10 years of activism and organizing in Athens”

3. When can school officials legally censor a high school student publication?

The U.S. Supreme Court answered this question in the cases of Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District, 1969 and Hazelwood v. Kulmeier, 1988, and lower courts have clarified matters further when applying the Tinker and Hazelwood rulings to additional cases. To begin with, the answer is different for independent student publications and school-sponsored publications.

When it comes to independent student publications, school officials may prevent distribution of such publications only when there is compelling evidence that the contents of the publication or the manner of its distribution would most likely cause a severe disruption of normal school activities or invade the rights of others. Such instances are extremely rare and include a case where students were attempting to distribute leaflets calling for a student walkout shortly after a major walkout already had occurred at the school.

When it comes to school-sponsored publications, school officials have much greater leeway thanks to Hazelwood. While some states (including Arkansas, California, Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Massachusetts, Oregon, Pennsylvania and Washington) have passed state laws to give school-sponsored publications protection from censorship closer to that which their independent counterparts enjoy under Tinker, within most of the U.S. school officials legally may censor a student publication even when nothing in its contents or manner of distribution is likely to cause a major disruption or invade the rights of others. Instead, school officials may exercise editorial control (e.g. remove or alter articles, prevent distribution) when there is not a written policy or longstanding practice of giving students editorial control of the publication. School officials must also show that they have “a valid educational purpose” for their censorship, but in practice courts most often have accepted school officials’ claims about what constitutes “a valid educational purpose.”

FSP specializes in independent student publications. Fore more information on student press law – particularly with regard to school-sponsored publications – please visit the website of the Student Press Law Center.

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