Category Archives: Discipline

JagWire Oral Sex Story Continues

In March of this year I posted about the Emerald Ridge student newspaper and how proud I am of student journalists who raise difficult issues. Now, a small group of students quoted in the JagWire story are suing the Puyallup School District over the oral sex articles. Read the story here.

While many may disagree with the content being allowed into the student newspaper, the reality now is that the students who are bringing the lawsuit are asking for $800,000 to $1.5 million each. This has caused the district to react in a manner inconsistent with First Amendment rights. However, the suing students’ integrity has been called into question:

In an earlier letter responding to the tort claims, the district’s lawyers said the students gave permission to use their names and quotes during an interview with reporters and again before the article was published.

“It is an ancient legal principle that ‘no wrong is done to one who consents,’” the attorneys wrote.

Emerald Ridge journalism adviser Kevin Smyth told The News Tribune in March that the JagWire quoted only students who had given their permission.

In addition, two of the students who now claim they were traumatized joked about the article in an improv comedy performance after the story was printed, according to the district letter.

A friend of mine gave me some inside information when the articles were being written, and he told me that one student named in the article was 17 while the rest were 18. Obviously, I’m getting the information second-hand but I trust the source. The notion that these students were unaware that they would be quoted is untrue, which definitely seems to show that money is the ultimate goal, not justice.

I hope the truth comes out. I also hope that the issues raised by these courageous student journalists are taken up by the school district and the parents of the community.

Freedom of the Student Press

Yesterday I posted about the myopic view of the Everett School District’s new prior review policy, and now the WJEA (Washington Journalism Education Association) weighs in:

The Everett School District is putting together quite an unenviable track record of trying to squelch student free expression rights.

It began last year with the mess at Everett High School, in which the school board backed a principal who required prior review, resulting in two students suing the district and the adviser being “reassigned.” It has continued this year with the students at Cascade High School taking their newspaper underground — as the students at Everett did — in an effort to retain control over their publication, and resulted in a student and teacher being suspended for working on The Free Stehekin on school computers.

All because the administrators in the Everett School District insist on prior review of student publications.

In a letter to the editor published yesterday in the Everett Herald, WJEA President Kathy Schrier fired back:

Those of us involved in scholastic journalism are shaking our heads at the fallout from this flawed policy: two good teachers whose careers have been impacted, two former student editors who are suing the school district, and now a top student suspended for 10 days. Why? Because the Everett School District does not believe that students should control the content of their student publications. …

When student newspapers are forced underground, students must learn by the seat of their pants – rather than in a classroom setting – how to use their voices in published works. This removes a tremendous opportunity for learning and exploring best practices under the guidance of a certificated teacher/adviser. …

I propose that scrapping the policy would be a bold, educationally sound move for the Everett School Board. It would show a commitment to making Everett schools places where democratic principles are modeled, critical thinking is encouraged, and where students don’t relinquish their rights at the schoolhouse gate.

This piggybacks on what the Herald said in its own editorial earlier last week.

The Everett School District shouldn’t worry about a troublesome article showing up in a student newspaper. Its own actions have become embarrassing enough. …

The suspensions are the latest chapter in a tale of administrative overreaction. … (T)he district faces a federal trial, a hard-working student and a respected teacher are suspended, and journalism students don’t have access to school equipment to publish campus newspapers, all because a misguided policy is being enforced. …

Educators overseeing student publications are there to teach journalism. Students learn by engaging in the entire publishing process, including the chance to deal with the repercussions of printing controversial material.

The district’s current policy has created problems rather than preventing them, and has fostered a hostile environment for student journalism. Enough damage has been done. The school board needs to abandon its policy of prior review.

The part that makes me laugh the most — or maybe cry? — is that Whittemore was suspended for 10 days because of a policy that “prohibits students from using school funds to create an unsanctioned publication.”

Which makes me wonder.

Are they suspending every student who is using “school funds” — computers, printers, telephones, etc. — to create unsanctioned work at school? Or just those “dangerous” students producing newspapers?

Censorship and Shortsightedness

According to well-documented research and studies and this article, students who are enrolled in “unregulated student journalism” perform higher in most areas of school including:

  • standardized testing,
  • average high school GPAs, and
  • freshman college GPAs.

However, one school district has decided to buck the research and open themselves to liability by creating a new policy of prior review, which means the principal previews and oks newspaper stories before publishing. This not only is censorship but opens up the administrator to liabilities and litigation. This shortsighted policy is not only myopic and damaging to high quality journalism programs, but actually increases the district’s culpability when it comes to the content of its publications.

If you are a free speech advocate or a supporter of the student press, please do not allow this to happen to your district.

Mike Singletary is the New Teacher

Discipline may be the most difficult aspect of a new teacher’s career, and every prospective instructor has a unique approach. Some are task masters, others are domineering, while others remain passive, and more styles are out there.

Mike Singletary, the new coach of the San Francisco 49ers, is learning what type of splash to make as the newly appointed head coach. He decided to be tough and in your face. After benching TE Vernon Davis, Singletary did not think Davis took the tongue-lashing to heart and sent him to the locker room. Later he said in a post-game interview regarding Davis, “I told him that he would do a better job for us right now taking a shower and coming back and watching the game than going out on the field.” Continue reading

Oldies but Goodies

I may be unable to blog for a couple days, so here is a list of some of my more popular posts from my brief blogging history. I hope these links spark some conversation and, more importantly, some thought on a range of education topics.

1. Teaching Connotation and Denotation (and its follow up post and some poems to use)

2. Using the movie The Matrix in Class

3. Discussions Using the Fish Bowl

4. Do Teachers Create Student Failures?

5. Make-up Work and Absences

6. Standards-Based Grading (and its follow up)

7. The Purpose of Assessment

8. A Fun Game for the Classroom

9.Tracking Themes in Literature

10. Teacher Websites

And on a humorous note: My Snark is Prepared

Standards-Based Grading

I went to a professional development session on standards-based grading the other day, and here are the main ideas.

Formative assessments (practices) should not be factored into grades. This menas homework and classwork is not graded.

Only summative assessments should be recorded into grades. Only course requirements and final assessments should be used to assess student achievement. Continue reading