The Playwickian

The Playwickian Policy Statement

The Playwickian
Mission Statement,
Policy Statement and Guidelines 2013-2014

I. MISSION STATEMENT
The Playwickian, the voice of Neshaminy High School, is the student-produced monthly publication dedicated to reporting serious news, enticing features and thought-provoking editorials in order to inform, enlighten, educate and entertain the Neshaminy community.
The members of the Playwickian staff contribute their time and effort to provide the student body with a forum to exercise students’ First Amendment rights, while remaining truthful and accurate in the responsible reporting of information.
The editorial board and staff writers welcome the expression of diversity by increasing the scope of our coverage in order to heighten global awareness throughout the school community.

II. POLICY STATEMENT
Published monthly, the student newspaper of Neshaminy High School is a public forum, with its student editorial board making all decisions concerning its contents. The student exercise of freedom of expression and press freedom is protected by PA Code Section 12.9 and the First Amendment to the Constitution. School officials exercise their right to Prior Review.

The Playwickian refers to the “Associated Press Stylebook” on matters of grammar, punctuation, spelling, style and usage. No anonymous sources will be accepted. Unsigned editorials express the views of the majority of the editorial board. Letters to the editors should not exceed 300 words. Letters must be signed and of appropriate subject matter. Guest opinions, 500 words or more, will be published as space allows.

The paper reserves the right to edit letters for grammar and clarity, and all letters are subject to laws governing obscenity, libel, privacy and disruption of the school’s educational process. Opinions in letters or commentaries are attributed to the author. Such views are not necessarily those of the staff, nor should any opinion expressed in a public forum be construed as the opinion or the policy of the adviser or administration, unless so attributed.

The Playwickian reserves the right to refuse advertising that the student staff determines to be false, misleading, or containing unverifiable and/or unsubstantiated content. No ads will be accepted that promote products, services, or messages that are determined by the student staff to be inappropriate for the newspaper’s primary readers – NHS students. Advertisements that appear in the publication are not necessarily endorsed by the publication.

III. OFFICIAL STUDENT MEDIA GUIDELINES
A. Responsibilities of Student Journalists
Students who work on official, school-sponsored student publications or electronic media determine the content of their publications and are responsible for that content. These students should:

1.) Determine the content of the student media;
2.) Strive to produce media based upon professional standards of accuracy, objectivity, and fairness;
3.) Review material to improve sentence structure, grammar, spelling, and punctuation;
4.) Check and verify all facts and verify the accuracy of all quotations; no anonymous sources will be accepted;
5.) In the case of editorials or letters to the editor concerning controversial issues, determine the need for rebuttal comments and opinions and provide space thereof if appropriate.

B. Unprotected expression

1.) Material that is “obscene as to minors.” Obscene as to minors is defined as material that meets all three of the following requirements:

(a) the average person, applying contemporary community standards, would find that the publication, taken as a whole, appeals to a minor’s prurient interest in sex, and
(b) the publication depicts or describes, in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct such as ultimate sexual acts (normal or perverted), and
(c) the work, taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value.

2.) Libelous material.
Libelous statements are provably false and unprivileged statements of fact that do demonstrated injury to an individual’s or business’ reputation in the community. As per New York Times v. Sullivan (1964), if the allegedly libeled party is a “public figure” or “public official” as defined below, then school officials must show that the false statement was published with actual malice,” i.e., that the student journalists knew that the statement was false or that they published it with reckless disregard for the truth without trying to verify the truthfulness of the statement.

(a) A public official is a person who holds an elected or appointed public office and exercises a significant amount of governmental authority
(b) A public figure is a person who either has sought the public’s attention or is well known because of personal achievements or actions.
(c) School employees will be considered public or public officials or public figures in relationship to articles concerning their school-related activities.
(d) When an allegedly libelous statement concerns an individual who is not a public official or a public figure, school officials must show that the false statement was published willfully or negligently, i.e., the student journalist who wrote or published the statement has failed to exercise reasonably prudent care.
(e) Students are free to express opinions. Specifically, a student may criticize school policy or the performance of teachers, administrators, school officials and other school employees.

3) Material that will cause “a material and substantial disruption of school activities” as per Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier (1988).

(a) Disruption is defined as student rioting, unlawful seizures of property, destruction of property, or substantial student participation in a school boycott, sit-in, walk-out, or other related form of activity. Material such as racial, religious or ethic slurs, however distasteful, is not in and of itself disruptive under these guidelines. Threats of violence are not materially disruptive without some act in furtherance of that threat or a reasonable belief and expectation that the author of the threat has the capability and intent on carrying through that threat in a manner that does not allow acts other than suppression of speech to mitigate the threat in a timely manner. Material that stimulates heated discussion or debate does not constitute the type of distribution prohibited.
(b) For student media to be considered disruptive, specific facts must exist upon which could reasonably forecast that a likelihood of immediate, substantial material disruption to normal school activity would occur if the material were further distributed or has occurred as a result of the material’s distribution or dissemination. Mere undifferentiated fear of apprehension of disturbances is not enough; school administrators must be able affirmatively to show substantial facts that reasonably support a forecast of likely disruption.
(c) In determining whether student media is disruptive, consideration must be given to the context of the distribution as well as the content of the material. In this regard, consideration should be given to past experience in the school with similar material, past experience in the school in dealing with and supervising the students in the school, current events influencing student attitudes and behavior and whether there have been any instances of actual or threatened disruption prior to or contemporaneously with the dissemination of the student publication in question.
(d) School officials must protect advocates of unpopular viewpoints.
(e) “School activity” means educational student activity sponsored by the school and includes, by way of example and not by way of limitation, classroom work, official assemblies and other similar gatherings, school athletic contests, band concerts, school plays and scheduled in-school lunch periods.

4.) Material that is considered derogatory to any race, gender, sexual orientation, disability, medical condition, age, religion, color, ethnic group, familial/marital status or any slur pertaining to any or all of these parties.

C. Legal Advice

1) If, in the opinion of student editor, student editorial staff or faculty adviser, material proposed for publication may be “obscene,” “libelous” or would cause an “immediate, material and substantial disruption of school activities,” the legal opinion of a practicing attorney should be sought. The free legal services of the Student Press Law Center (703-807-1904) are recommended.

D. Freedom of expression – PA Code 12.9

1) The right of public school students to freedom of speech is guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the Commonwealth.
2) Students shall have the right to express themselves unless the expression materially and substantially interferes with the educational process, threatens serious harm to the school or community, encourages unlawful activity or interferes with another individual’s rights.
3) Students may use publications, handbills, announcements, assemblies, group meetings, buttons, armbands and any other means of common communication, provided that the use of public school communications facilities shall be in accordance with the regulations of the authority in charge of those facilities.
(a) Students have the responsibility to obey laws governing libel and obscenity and to be aware of the full meaning of their expression.
(b) Students have the responsibility to be aware of the feelings and opinions of others and to give others a fair opportunity to express their views.
4) School newspapers and publications must conform to the following:
(a) Students have a right and are as free as editors of other newspapers to report the news and to editorialize within the provisions in paragraphs (2) and (3).
(b) School officials shall supervise student newspapers published with school equipment, remove obscene or libelous material and edit other material that would cause a substantial disruption or interference with school activities.
(c) School officials may not censor or restrict material simply because it is critical of the school or its administration.
E. Commercial Speech
1) Advertising is constitutionally protected expression. Student media may accept advertising. Acceptance or rejection of advertising is within the purview of the publication staff, which may accept any ads except those for products or services that are illegal for all students. Ads for political candidates and ballot issues may be accepted; however publication staffs are encouraged to solicit ads from all sides on such issues.
F. On-Line Student Media and Use of Electronic Information Resources
1) On-Line Student Media
On-line media, including Internet Web sites, e-mail, discussion groups, may be used by students like any other communications media to reach both those within the school and those beyond it. All official, school-sponsored on-line student publications are entitled to the same protections and are subject to no greater limitations than other student media, as described in this policy.
2) Electronic Information Resources
Student journalists may use electronic information resources, including Internet Web sites, e- mail, discussion groups, to gather news and information, to communicate with other students and individuals and to ask questions of and consult with sources. School officials will apply the same criteria used in determining the suitability of other educational and information resources to attempts to remove or restrict student media access to on-line and electronic material. Just as the purchase, availability and use of media materials in a classroom or library does not indicate endorsement of their contents by school officials, neither does making electronic information available to students imply endorsement of that content.
Although faculty advisers to student media are encouraged to help students develop the intellectual skills needed to evaluate and appropriately use electronically available information to meet their newsgathering purposes, advisers are not responsible for approving the on-line resources used or created by their students.
3) Acceptable Use Policies
The Board recognizes that the technical and networking environment necessary for on-line communication may require that school officials define guidelines for student exploration and use of electronic information resources. The purpose of such guidelines will be to provide for the orderly, efficient and fair operation of the school’s on-line resources. The guidelines may not be used to unreasonably restrict student use of or communication on the on-line media.
Such guidelines may address the following issues: file size limits, password management, system security, data downloading protocol, use of domain names, use of copyrighted software, access to computer facilities, computer hacking, computer etiquette and data privacy.

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