Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Freedom of speech for high school students?

A few odds and ends to pass along on this cold, Tuesday evening ..

Tonight's lead story at 6 p.m. and again at 6:30 p.m. is sure to be a "talk-about" case around town. A local high school suspended a handful of students who made a Youtube video mocking their teachers and fellow students. They made the video at home on their own time, yet the school district feels it has grounds to take disciplinary action. The videos have since been removed. I did speak to the parent of one of the students who tells me that he's furious the district would suspend the kids during exam week when the law isn't clear (he says) that the school has jurisdiction here. The superintendent and parents are due to speak with one of our reporters in the next hour or so .. so stay tuned.

I didn't know it, but my first documentary "Reporting the War" aired again last night on PBS 45/49 and is scheduled to air again this Sunday at 1:30 p.m. This 30-minute report looks at the challenges local journalists face while trying to cover conflicts thousands of miles away. My interviews include TV anchor Tim White and Leon Bibb, long-time news anchor and news director Virgil Dominic, local radio anchor Larry States, ABJ military reporter Jim Carney, and veteran photojournalist Larry Baker. You can also watch the documentary on-line at the 45/49 website.

How in the world did LeBron's speeding ticket stay quiet for two weeks? He was stopped on Dec. 30th but the story didn't come out until Jan. 13th. I'm just amazed that it took that long considering the trooper who wrote the ticket must have known who it was behind the wheel. How did someone not leak it to a reporter? I realize a lot of people are taking shots at LeBron's "cavalier" attitude towards the ticket, but my first thought was his two sons. Forget the basketball career and celebrity .. how do you go 101 MPH when you have two little boys who depend on you to be around as their daddy? Guess it's just the father in me .. and recalling how I began slowing down and taking fewer risks once I became a parent.

So Tennessee and Indianapolis both lost their first games in the playoffs. Somehow I feel those losses were karma for what happened to the Browns on the last week of the season. I realize the Colts had their reasons for resting those starters (and we can see how well that worked out), but for the hard-working fans who paid big bucks to attend the game, weren't they still charged full price even though they didn't get a first-team show?

I had a nice time this morning as a panelist with the Child and Family Leadership Guidance media day. My Q & A with a handful of local public relations folks followed a panel discussion the group had with four Public Information Officers, including Akron Police Lieutenant Rick Edwards. He described his role with the media as that of a zoo keeper. Every day he has to find the right food to feed the hungry local reporters. Classic.


laurac19 said...

I'm disheartened that the school district felt that they needed to go to the extreme of suspending the students. The punishment is ridiculously harsh...I sure hope that these leaders get some sense knocked into them and realize that this was just some harmless fun. In this day, we all know that students elsewhere pull much worse pranks worthy of suspensions (or worse) that are never handed down, so this seems like an abuse of power to me...

Anonymous said...

Not that I necessarily agree with the board's decision but here's what I found missing in the story: did any of these parents give little darling a whack upside the head for doing something so disrespectful to a teacher to begin with? Totally lacking: parents willing to take their kids to the woodshed before taking the school district to the woodshed. My parents would have shown abuse of power first: their abuse of my power to be an idiot.

Tony said...

One, during my distant High School days A few friends and I published a parody of the school paper because we thought it was laughably bad. We parodied the typical news stories and OP-ED pieces in it. Even went as far as getting it copied at a Kinko's in Far, Far, Away (Kent, actually) and handed it out clandestinely during school. We weren't stupid, the administration knew who was doing it, but it was satire and they recognized it for what it was: Teenagers being teenagers.
Two, these school district people need to do two things.
1) Grow a thicker skin. You will be mocked by your students, get over yourselves. Just because you were picked on in High School like all the rest of us doesn't mean you get to use your power to stop it from happening now.
2) Hmmm... I don't know, actually ask them to take it down before you lower the boom on them? And don't think for a second that any mighty punishment you can inflict on them will actually do anything to them besides make you feel better about yourselves.

Buck said...

Eric...the punishment of the students truly puzzles me because how is it they are suspended BUT they are allowed to make up their work???? That's NOT how a suspension normally works. Suspensions usually mean you don't get to make up work.

Eric Mansfield said...

I thinkt hat's part of the compromise .. that the 10-day suspensions be modified to 6-days out-of-school ... followed by 4-days of in-school suspension with make-up work. The parents' were screaming because it's mid-term exam week .. and to NOT allow the kids to make up the work would be big trouble for their grades.
Also .. at least one parent said the modified sentence was an olive branch against parents suing ... so we'll see how it goes.
Already there is talk that one teacher may sue the parents of the kids' .. so stay tuned ..
It really is a great free speech vs. cyber harassment case ..