Seattle Flunks the First Amendment

We don’t recall whether our career as a high-school journalist lasted one year or two, but we can state with confidence that we were an abject failure: Not once did we piss off the Administration.

Don’t worry — we atoned for our sin in college. Big time. But that’s another story.

Sadly, we lack the confidence to proclaim that we would have handled our Fantasy Indiscretion properly. For all we know, we would have made the same fundamental mistake as our colleagues in Seattle:

A proposal being considered by the Seattle School Board could have a chilling impact on free speech in the city’s high schools, First Amendment activists say.

The proposed policy would give principals the authority to review high-school newspapers before they are published and would allow them to stop publication if they deem material to be libelous, obscene or “not in keeping with the school’s instructional mission and values,” among other criteria.

Do you see the problem here? How about a telling clue?

Two top editors at the Ballard High School paper, The Talisman, spent the weekend posting signs around the school titled “Student 1st Amendment Rights at Risk.”

Well, no. Who’s teaching kids these lies?

But Kathy Schrier, executive director of the Washington Journalism Education Association, says the proposal goes much further than that.

“It opens the door for administrators to pretty much censor at will,” she said.


Pop quiz: Who’s the publisher? Because if the answer is the school district, that’s not censorship, that’s editing. And it’s a lesson you’d best learn early, since the folks who later pay your salary will have a similar interest in what you write.

Or, to trot out the old line: Freedom of the Press belongs to those who own one.

Happily, that’s a lot easier these days. We didn’t have blogs in high school.

As it happens, our college rag was one of the first student-owned papers in the country, so we were free to really feel the thrill of being responsible for the crap we published, especially that one satire issue that managed to piss off the entire town. Being a Constitutionally protected profane brat is fun!

The sad part about all this is that the assembled students, Journalism Educators, and First Amendment Activists have deprived us of one of our favorite sports: Mocking famous people who whine that their free speech has been violated. If the people who should know how the First Amendment works are fucking clueless, how can we blame anyone else?

Proposed Seattle school-newspaper policy raises censorship concerns [Seattle Times]

True, it would not be a wise move calling the dictatorial Vice Principal a poopy face in the student newspaper.

However clamping down on “improper” speech and “evil” songs earns him getting a Hitler mustache on his official portrait (not me!)

I am off to vote®. It is awesome to be free®.

@Benedick: Voter #9 at my precinct, where the critical issues are Sunday alcohol sales and education sales taxes. If it wasn’t for Sunday sales, the turnout would be even lower than usual. Hopefully we will drag Georgia kicking and screaming into the 20th century.

@rptrcub: Good luck with that. Here in God’s country everything went off smoothly with the new coloring-book ballots. (I miss the lever. I always liked yanking things.) Lots of helpers. Plus side room full of baked treats, pies, coffee, etc, for sale. As I’ve just dropped 6 lbs with another 10 to go I gave it a miss.

@Benedick: I think Sunday sales will pass in my little burg, where Obama stickers are nearly mandatory on all vehicles and craft beer and growlers are the trendy things. City of Atlanta should be the same way, too. As for bumfuck Georgia, we’ll see.

As far as the education sales taxes go, I foresee some of them going down in flames considering the anti-tax feeling in the state. I was a heathen and actually voted against my county’s tax, considering the last 3 sales tax round monies have been misspent and given to family members of school officials.

I miss the old lever machines that we had in Athens, Ga. when I was in college. It gave a satisfying kler-chunk letting you know the vote was cast. Now — just those suspicious Diebold machines.

@Benedick: @rptrcub: Sadly, I never got to use one of those voting machines–always voted on paper ballots. Have to drop off my and Mr Cyn’s ballots at the County Clerk’s office this AM on the way to work. Voting by mail is super convenient, but not as much fun.

@rptrcub: Voter # 6 at my polling place up the street.
Here in Ess Eff we’re struggling with instant run-0ff ranked choice voting with 11 15 mayoral candidates. The incumbent, who was installed by Lite Guv Gavin McDreamy’s camp, is under fire for “independent” campaign groups walking around Chinatown collecting absentee ballots from elderly immigrants and “helping” them vote. The state secretary of state has sent election monitors to observe voting in SF, we have the dubious distinction of being the only jurisdiction in the state with monitors today.

@SanFranLefty: So is this the first year of that instant run-off stuff in California? It sounds like a complete clusterfuck. Voting observers. In San Francisco. Did they page the Carter Center to come out there like they do in Africa?

@rptrcub: Not the first year it’s been done, but it’s the first time it will be in play in a mayoral election. We had it four years ago, but Mayor McDreamy got more than 50% of the vote, so there was none of the nonsense. Last year, the person in Oakland who got only 25% of the vote for mayor wound up becoming mayor over the old pol who had 44% of the vote, because she strategically asked every voter to rank her second after their other choices. Several Ess Eff candidates are doing the “put me second” approach, including the openly ghey candidate/former Supe from the Castro, Bevan Dufty, who is running awesome television ads denounced by the anti-gheyz featuring him and his daughter (by a lesbian, naturally) dancing on a Muni subway. TPM said that his ad was probably the first one in the country by an openly gay candidate featuring the candidate’s kid. He got my #2 vote.

@SanFranLefty: Let me guess — one of their complaints was that his daughter “dresses like a boy.”

@ nojo,

The current school board rejected the proposed policy as of yesterday, so student journalism is gonna live to fight another day.

Also, the current group of whackadoodle nutjobs on the school board are all gonna lose their jobs and be replaced by another group of whackadoodle nutjobs today.

To paraphrase the local alt-weekly, voting in the US today is like a multiple choice test in which all the answers are wrong.

@¡Andrew!: Student journalism already lost, if they think that writing for the school paper has anything to do with the First Amendment. They really should start an independent blog, and use a Finger as their logo. Then the issues get more interesting if the principal complains.

Also: Better training for their careers in a paperless world.

@nojo: Blog Against The Man.

Or, for Seattle, Blog Against the Status Quo Representative Authority Figure.

@¡Andrew!: This goes back to my time in college. Real journalists wrote for the student-owned paper. Hacks worried about their J-school grades.

@nojo: Like when an op-ed might end with “…and fuck you too, professor.”

Ah, those were the days.

@nojo: I tried to read my current university’s student paper, but shiz is depressin.’ They had a recent article about how the university’s staff is so poorly paid that some qualify for public assistance. You’d sure as hell never know it from the tuition bill$.

@¡Andrew!: Our Legislature columnist wrote “Give me a fucking break” in a piece. A legislator got all huffy about that, and distributed copies to all his colleagues.

So, when the time came for the annual satire issue, I made a point of including “Give me a fucking break” in every story.

But that’s not what pissed off the town. Although it helped.

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