Saturday, November 05, 2011

More Votes for Buetow?

What an interesting thing this story about the revision of Board policy around high school newspapers has turned out to be.

First, the Times has no story.  They link to the My Ballard site story but are strangely quiet about it even as it's a pretty slow news day.  A story about freedom of the press that involves candidates for School Board right before election day?  You'd think that would interest any newspaper.  But not our Times.  Apparently, mums the word until AFTER the election.

Trouble is, the Times isn't the only story and now The Stranger has picked it up.   Here's one comment:

I'm glad I procrastinated mailing my ballot until after reading this. I was considering voting for (Stranger endorsed) Martin-Morris, but not anymore.

Here's the old policy wording:

Students have the right to FREEDOM OF THE PRESS and may express their personal opinions in writing. They must take full responsibility for the content of their publications by identifying themselves as authors and or editors of the publication. They are not allowed to make personal attacks or publish libelous or obscene material. –Seattle Public Schools Student Rights and Responsibilities 2011-2012

here's the new policy wording (including student behavior):

The principal may request to review any copy prior to its publication. Material must be free of content that: runs counter to the instructional program; is libelous; obscene or profane; contains threats of violence towards a person; invades a person’s privacy; demeans any race, religion, sex, or ethnic group; advocates the violation of the law or school rule; advertises the tobacco products, liquor, illicit drugs, or drug paraphernalia; materially and substantially disrupts the operations of the school; or, is inappropriate for the maturity level of the students. 

The Superintendent is authorized to develop guidelines assuring that students are able to enjoy free expression of opinion while maintaining orderly conduct of the school.
In order for a student publication or speech to be restricted for causing a material and substantial disruption, there must exist specific facts upon which it would be reasonable to forecast that a clear and present likelihood of an immediate substantial disruption to normal school activity would occur if the material were published and distributed. Material and substantial disruption includes, but is not necessarily limited to: student riots; destruction of property; widespread shouting or boisterous conduct; or substantial student participation in a school boycott, sit in, stand-in, walk-out or other form of activity.
–Superintendent Procedure 3220SP 

Holy Cow!  Now they want to get rid of the cheerleaders! Because as I recall it IS their job to create widespread shouting and boisterous conduct.  And no boycotts or sit-ins or any of that civil disobedience stuff like...who was that guy who did all that in the '60s?  History is for history books, right?

Look, I don't believe student newspapers are going to write manifestos to burn down the school.  Nor do I think most students care enough to walk out of school on any given day for any given reason.  But yes, sometimes you have to stand up and be counted and yes, maybe walk out of school. 

At the end of day, we teach these students (and fast-becoming young adults) NOTHING by trying to muzzle them and lock them in a  school building.  We teach them nothing about fairness by having 10+ principal "editors in chief", all who may or may not agree on what can or cannot be printed in the student newspaper.  (And I thought that, more and more, principals were to be the academic leaders but boy, between figuring out what is an excused vacation and what isn't and now being the editor of the high school newspaper, they have a lot on their plates.)

What is the problem the district is trying to solve? 

Are they mad because the Sisleys, noted pains-in-the-ass and alleged "slumlords", were willing to go to court over an alleged offense in the Roosevelt newspaper?   Please.

And, keep in mind, that if one of our new editors-in-chief (and/or their teacher adviser) errs in their editing, the district will REALLY get sued. 

What did that lawyer say in KUOW's interview?

Hiestand: "The minute that you open the door and say that a principal has that authority, as a plaintiff's attorney, you know, I start to salivate."

Because, he says, that ties the student newspaper to the school district. And a plaintiff could argue the district is responsible for content.

I'm think I'm going to start an on-line petition.  

27 comments:

Mazda Isphahan said...

Neighborhood blogs have picked up on the Talisman school newspaper and proposed policy issue. Myballard.com, mapleleaflife.com, possibly others. Maybe those neighborhood blogs might appreciate some light on School Board involvement with this policy. Some readers might be leaving it until Sunday or Monday to mail their ballots.

mirmac1 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
mirmac1 said...

Danny Westneat has a funny election quiz. I've posted just a few of the questions:

2. A local ad barred from TV featured voters using the f-word to register extreme disgust. What were they so bleeping mad about?

a) the mayor's plan to tear down the viaduct and replace it with nothing

b) the Port of Seattle's plan to raise the director's salary in a recession

c) the Seattle School Board's plan to stand for re-election

3. In which campaign are the candidates so fit that the media said they have "pectoral-obsessed lifestyles?"

a) the race for Snohomish County Executive

b) the race for King County Tax Assessor

c) the race with Jean Godden and whoever is running against her

4. Of the 10 candidates for Seattle City Council, there's one thing not one of them has ever done. What is it?

a) smoked pot

b) skinny-dipped in Lake Washington

c) gotten arrested

d) voted for an Eyman initiative

11. To what was a Seattle school report referring when it described school-board candidate Kate Martin as "incapable of handling a situation in a calm and orderly manner?"

a) how she was clearly qualified to serve on the Seattle School Board

b) how upset she had once gotten at how bad her son's teacher was

c) how she might be a good fit to run the Garfield athletic department

Anonymous said...

Great article here.
http://www.splc.org/news/newsflash.asp?id=2253

Where is the actual policy on the SPS website (current and proposed ?) I've looked (even by number) and can't find it.

Seriously... no content that "runs counter to the instructional program" -- So they couldn't do an article on EDM? Or Writer's Workshop? And nothing v. a school rule? And what a big soggy mess re: "inappropriate for the maturity level of the students."

seriously???

-can't be serious.

dan dempsey said...

Dear cant't be serious,

You wrote "no content that "runs counter to the instructional program" -- So they couldn't do an article on EDM? Or Writer's Workshop?"

When the Board will not talk about such matters, it sure doesn't wish to have students' writing about such matters. After all what do the kids know anyway about how great the instructional programs are in the SPS.

dan dempsey said...

Stranger LINK

mirmac1 said...

Here's a very nice blog post, drawing a clear distinction between Marty Mclaren and her opponent.

What would da Vinci say?

dan dempsey said...

Mirmac1,

WOW one woman sure has some spot on analysis:

Sundquist‘s answers are succinct and to the point, using words like research, policy, impact, performance, engagement, collaboration, understanding. I do not doubt he means well, but honestly, I think I’ve heard this same spiel before. It’s straight out of the What-To-Say-When-Someone-Asks-You-About-The-Arts Manual (2005 edition). In my experience these words tend to define the Talk but rarely lead to the Walk.

This can certainly be applied to lots of politicians and to a huge range of topics. .... lots of talking ... but little walking.

Brian M. Rosenthal said...

Melissa (et al) - Please understand that The Times has spacing constraints that My Ballard etc does not. My story is done but had to be held because the paper was full. It WILL run before the election (as in, tomorrow). But this is hardly breaking news - the board won't vote on it for more than a month.

Meanwhile, today we published another story (about the district's new transportation plan) that is certainly not in keeping with "mum's the word."

-Brian M. Rosenthal
Seattle Times education reporter
www.twitter.com/brianmrosenthal

Melissa Westbrook said...

It's breaking news if it would have influenced endorsements and/or votes.

Kathy said...

Brian,

Also consider writing about Maier's proposal to eliminate the district's Home School Resource Center. Many students are not able to succeed through traditional pathways. This IS an election issue. Sharon Peaslee supports alternative pathways to success - while Maier proposes elimination.

Charlie Mas said...

All four of the board directors elected in 2007 say all of the right things. They pay lip service to openness, honesty, transparency, accountability, responsiveness, and engagement. They do not, however, take any action in support of those values.

seattle citizen said...

@Mr. Rosenthal,
You write about the student newspaper policy, in explaining why the story might not run right away, that "this is hardly breaking news - the board won't vote on it for more than a month."

I understand if there is no room in the newspaper to print it. But it is a public board (OUR board) and it is expected and encouraged that the public contribute commentary on it before the vote. If your paper ran it RIGHT before the vote, or AFTER the vote, it would be too late for public comment, which we all know the school board and the Seattle Times encourage.

My point is that it IS breaking news: The issue has arisen before the board and they are discussing it. How much more timely, more "breaking," can you get?

Brian M. Rosenthal said...

@seattle citizen - I completely agree with your point. But we are not running the article RIGHT before or after the vote. We're running it 31 days before the vote as opposed to 32 days.

dw said...

@Brian

Not that vote. That vote will be done deal, depending on who is sitting in the Board seats after the election.

What folks here are talking about is this Tuesday's vote. That's the critical one.

dw said...

To tack on a little more: Brian, I think your articles are a step above what we've had here in Seattle for a while. Keep digging around and improving by learning what's happening below the surface (i.e. not always what the district tells the public), and you'll either

a) be a heroic champion of public education
b) be out of a job

I hope it's (a).

Anonymous said...

Brian- She meant the school board elections. With four seats up for a vote, this story does make a difference.

PS: Thank you for your willingness to engage here and to jump in on reporting. It's a new day in education coverage for the Times. Now if we can get a new day in education coverage on the Editorial/Opinion side of the Times then we'd really be in business. One can hope.

-skeptical-

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

Fighting 43rd says......

The best way to stop this policy in its tracks is to vote out Martin-Morris. No Martin-Morris, no policy proposal. Buetow has spoken at every forum about her past as a journalist. No way she supports this (though someone should get her on record affirming my assumption.)

seattle citizen said...

@Mr. Rosenthal -
Point taken - The story DID run today, before BOTH votes.

I was responding more to your comment about it not being breaking news.

I agree with Skeptical that it's refreshing to see education reporting, and, frankly, you got off to a good start with some of your stories: They seem balanced, which is a good thing. Keep up the good work.

Maureen said...

I just signed the petition Melissa set up.

Chris S. said...

Hee hee. When I read the article there was Harium's face. Then, alongside the comments was Peter. Yep, this is the drivel you get with these guys.

I signed the position too, and seconded Melissa's position with "what?! the superintendent and the principals don't have anything better to do?"

Chris S. said...

It is comical, but I do wonder what is going on. Does Sisley have connections with business interests who have connections to the board? I can't imagine anyone else wanting to step into this quagmire. Other than the lawyers, of course.

Melissa Westbrook said...

(I'm posting this because I thought it valid but it did not have a name attached per our policy.)

As a former Editor-in-Chief of the Nathan Hale Sentinel and current editor of Occidental College's weekly paper, I find this proposal abhorrent. To someone that knows nothing about free speech, the proposal might seem innocent, but to anybody that knows anything about the importance of free speech - this is a true threat to the right of freedom of speech students publications have been given by the Supreme Court. The Court has said that principals can utilize prior-review an censor articles that present a material and substantail disruption to the business of the school. But that is not what this policy says. Instead, it outlines way unconstitutionally overbroad (that is a legal term) policies that cover free speech and would result in the silencing of free speech (either by censorship or the threat of censorship). That is the problem with overbroad policies....they have the effect of silencing free speech! And the Supreme Court has protected the free speech rights of high school newspapers. The "profanity" clause...profanty is protected free speech, the school can't ban profanity appearing in the paper unless it presents a material and substantial disruption. The "privacy" clause? Are you kidding me...the role of newspapers in democracy is to shine light on things some people in power might want to keep dark. Invading senses of privacy is waaaay overbroad and unconstitutional. "Goes against the educational mission of the school" are you kidding me? That could cover me writing an opinion piece saying I don't like the history textbooks and I want them changed? That is free speech, you can't write a policy that threatens to censor cover something like that. And then, the absolutely worst one, the principal can ban something if he/she thinks it is aboe the "maturity-level" of the students. Are you kidding me? That could mean anything and what is the principal, a god that knows what students can and can't handle? This proposal is absolutly draconian. Please fight with me to make sure it is defeated and to make sure any supporters of it on the School Board pay a hefty political price for ever bringing it up.

Maggie Hooks said...

just up on Slog:

http://slog.thestranger.com/slog/archives/2011/11/07/secb-fucks-up-school-board-endorsement

the SECB changed its endorsement to Michelle Buetow and called HMM a "frothing idiot".

Christina said...

Fighting 43rd says......

The best way to stop this policy in its tracks is to vote out Martin-Morris. No Martin-Morris, no policy proposal.

I see a public apology and a changed endorsement from The Stranger.

WV: "lesse! lesse the new cheat sheet!"

Chris S. said...

Unfortunately the new board members will not be sworn in before this vote. HMM is probably being asked to do this and I doubt he will cease and desist unless people come out and embarrass him like the D average debacle. Students - get down there to the board meetings and state your case. The board slobbers all over itself when students testify. And email, and protest, get interviewed by the stranger, etc.