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Your Questions, Answered

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Question | Student Protests

Can high school students get together to protest school decisions on campus during school hours?

You’re passionate about an issue and you want to take a stance. So, you gather up a bunch of students and organize a protest—a sit-in, a walk-out, a picket line, etc. But does the school have the power to shut it down? Aren’t these protests protected by the First Amendment? 

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Question | Student Protests

Can a school enforce lockdown procedures to prevent a student protest?

At school this week, all the students planned to take part in the #walkout movement—walking out of class and standing in the halls in protest of gun violence in schools. Students at plenty of other schools walked out of their classrooms, but our school was put into lockdown mode to stop the demonstration. Can the school do that? Doesn’t that violate our free speech rights?

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Question | Social Media

Can I get in trouble for posting something mean about one of my teachers online?

A student at my school posted a mean comment about a math teacher on Facebook, saying “Ms. Smith is a f***ing bitch and is really a shitty teacher.” During school, ten other students “liked” the comment. The principal heard about the post and threatened to suspend the student who posted it and give anyone who “liked” it a detention. Can the school punish a student for venting on social media?

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Question | FOIA/OMA

Do I have to pay for the information I ask for in a FOIA request?

I’m on the student newspaper and I wanted to find out why my school made so many changes to our school lunch program recently. I submitted a FOIA request asking to see all of the principal’s email messages in the past year. The school told me it was going to charge me $5,000 to turn over the emails! I can’t afford that, so I can’t do the story. Is this right? Can the school charge me this much? Aren’t the emails public info?

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Question | Privacy

Can my student newspaper use a student’s name when reporting on sensitive topics, such as abuse or depression?

Can my student newspaper use a student’s name when reporting on sensitive topics, such as abuse or depression?

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Question | Privacy

Can my student organization broadcast a student’s name and photo in one of our productions without that student’s consent?

Can my student organization broadcast a student’s name and photo in one of our productions without that student’s consent?

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Question | Privacy

Can I get in trouble for publishing student quotes in an article when the student and student’s parents sign a release form, but then the parents object to the use of the quotes?

Can I get in trouble for publishing student quotes in an article when the student and student’s parents sign a release form, but then the parents object to the use of the quotes?

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Question | Privacy

Can I publish an article for my school newspaper if a student featured in the article says she doesn’t want to be mentioned?

Can I publish an article for my school newspaper if a student featured in the article says she doesn’t want to be mentioned?

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Question | Copyright & Fair Use

Can we use a popular song as background music for a video that will be played at graduation?

You can likely use popular songs as background music in your graduation video because it is a fair use of the songs and no money is made from using the songs.

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Question | Copyright & Fair Use

Can I use 30 seconds of a Beyoncé song in the background of my video?

No, even if it’s only 30 seconds, its still likely to infringe Beyoncé’s copyright.

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Question | Social Media

Can a school suspend students for attacking another student on social media?

A school has the authority to discipline students for off-campus attacks made on social media that disrupt the general student welfare or attack an individual student. Even though the First Amendment protects many kinds of speech, student speech that is considered a true threat or creates a substantial disruption to the school will not be protected.

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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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