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Your Questions, Answered

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Question | Student Press

If a student journalist receives consent from students to publish their medical or private information, can privacy laws like HIPAA or FERPA prevent the student journalist from publishing that information?

Generally, no. Consent is key!

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Question | Privacy

Can the school search our lockers and backpacks to look for drugs? Can they search our lockers and backpacks for no reason?

Students have a privacy right in their personal belongings, such as backpacks, and school officials must have “reasonable suspicion” before searching a student’s items. But lockers are owned by the school, so the school can search those without having “reasonable suspicion.”

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Question | Student Press

Can the school censor student journalists and stop them from broadcasting bad game scores?

No, if a school administrator censors the scores of high school sports on school-sponsored television broadcasts, it is likely a violation of student First Amendment press rights

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Question | Social Media

Can our school punish students for what we post on our social media?

It depends.

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Question | Student Press

Can my school censor school newspaper advertisements based on the school’s Code of Conduct?

The school likely cannot prohibit the newspaper from publishing advertisements for alcohol and lottery tickets.

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Question | Privacy

Can school administrators take my phone and go through my personal information on my phone?

No, school administrators do not have the right to search a student’s phone if a student is caught using their phone during class, even if that student protests its taking.

 

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Question | Student Protests

Can students get in trouble for kneeling during the national anthem?

As long as you aren’t causing a substantial disruption to the game, kneeling during the anthem is protected by the First Amendment.

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Question | Copyright & Fair Use

Can a yearbook get in trouble for printing famous quotes and lyrics in its advertisement pages?

Because yearbooks aren't created to make profits, using song lyrics or a book quote in a yearbook ad would probably count as educational fair use, so it wouldn't violate copyright. 

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Question | Student Expression

Can a school stop you from saying "God bless the United States" over the morning announcements?

The Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment protects your expression. But, the First Amendment also has an Establishment Clause, which bars any government actor, like your public school, from promoting an establishment of religion. In general, schools have wide authority to shut down speech solely because it is religious. Whether they can shut down speech under the Establishment Clause or if it is protected under the Free Speech Clause depends on two questions: (1) whether the students hearing the message are a “captive audience,” and (2) whether the student’s statement constitutes religious speech.

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Question | Copyright & Fair Use

Does a school have the right to use a student journalist's photo?

In general, a creative work like a photograph is owned by the creator of the work, even if they are a student journalist. However, the school might have some rights to use a student journalist's photos, especially if they signed an agreement. 

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Question | Copyright & Fair Use

What is Creative Commons? How do you know if something is in the public domain? What does all this have to do with copyright?

There are a lot of ways you can incorporate images, videos, and even music into your videos without violating anyone’s copyright. You could use your own content, content in the public domain, content available through Creative Commons, or content that is someone else’s but your use is fair use.

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Question | Privacy

Does reporting on a student's suicide violate privacy?

A family likely cannot get the principal to remove the story due to the legal reason of invasion of privacy. However, as journalists, ethically, you should consider the feelings of the family in your publication, and treat the issue with respect, focusing on the life of the student, rather than their death.

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