Within the school setting, students enjoy the constitutional right of freedom of expression, including the right to express their views in student publications, provided such expression does not cause, or threaten to cause by reasonable forecast by school officials, any disruption or disorder in the school. Additionally, such constitutional right of freedom of expression does not include expression which is obscene, defamatory, or advocates violence or illegality where such advocacy is imminently likely to incite the commission of such acts to the detriment of school security, or which can reasonably be forecast to cause substantial disruption or material interference with school activities.

The School Committee encourages student publications not only because they offer an educational activity through which students gain experience in reporting, writing, editing, and understanding responsible journalism, but also because they provide an opportunity for students to express their views subject to the limitations as contained in this policy.

Student publications should comply with the rules for responsible journalism. Students shall affix their names to all articles or editorials written by or contributed to by them. The Superintendent or designee will establish guidelines that are in keeping with this policy and provide for review of student publications prior to their distribution, to address matters that are not protected forms of expression.

Each student publication shall contain the following: "Pursuant to state law, no expression made by students in the exercise of such rights shall be deemed to be an expression of school policy and no school officials shall be held responsible in any civil or criminal action for any expression made or published by the students."

Distribution of Student Publications

The time, place and manner of distribution of student publications will be reasonably regulated by the Principal.

Related Definitions, Responsibilities, and Procedures

Definition of Official School Publications: Official school publications include newspapers, yearbooks, websites, and literary magazines, which are prepared in regularly scheduled classes or by approved co-curricular organizations and supervised by a faculty adviser appointed by the principal.

Responsibilities of Student Journalists: Student journalists will be responsible for ensuring the appropriateness and truthfulness of material published. Such material shall not be obscene, libelous or slanderous and must not incite students to the commission of unlawful acts, violation of school regulations or substantial disruption of school operations. Student journalists will adhere to the school’s expectations for academic honesty as well as its core values. In situations when the faculty advisor or Principal believes there to be a potential threat to school or student safety, the student journalist shall provide names of sources.

Responsibilities of Faculty Advisers: Faculty advisers will instruct the student journalists in the understanding of the school’s expectations for academic honesty, its core values, and correct and appropriate journalistic techniques. Faculty advisers will consult with the principal on material that may fail to meet either of the aforementioned standards.

Faculty advisors shall respect the student journalist’s desire to protect sources of information and shall only request names of sources if there is a potential threat to school or student safety.

It is the responsibility of the faculty advisors to ensure that student publications provide prompt and complete correction of its own serious mistakes of fact or opinion, whatever their origin.

Responsibilities of the Principal: The principal is responsible for informing the faculty advisor about the legal requirements of student publications and the expectations set forth in this policy. The principal will render a decision on all matters affecting school publications in a timely manner after material is submitted to him/her for review.

Appeal Procedure: The superintendent is authorized to consider appeals by students who feel that their materials may have been improperly or unfairly censored or that a request is made to provide the name of a source for a situation other than one that poses a potential risk to student safety or school security.

Student-generated, Non-school-sponsored Materials

Distribution of student-generated, non-school-sponsored materials or literature on school property shall receive prior approval by the principal, who shall review and judge the material using the same standards that pertain to official student publications.

LEGAL REF.: M.G.L. 71:82
Adapted from: MASC April 2007

FIRST READING: February 11, 2014
APPROVED: March 11, 2014