Adviser Update Adviser Update Winter 2018 - Page 27

27 + The rights guaranteed in the First Amendment are not absolute. Some expression receives no First Amendment protection because it directly infringes on others’ rights (e.g., libel, copyright infringement, false advertising). This includes speech that directly incites violence or other illegal activity. + First Amendment protection does not imbue legitimacy to repugnant ideas or offer a shield against discussion, debate or even outright condemnation. Some try to brush off criticism with claims like, “Well, the First Amendment protects my speech.” While that statement is often true, it doesn’t mean others can’t and shouldn’t ardently criticize certain expression. Merely acknowledging the government’s inability to censor speech doesn’t, by any means, absolve this speech from public scrutiny. + Being offended isn’t a direct infringement of one’s rights. That, of course, does not diminish the pain and hurt people feel from careless or hateful words. But the effort to push back the tide of intolerance is more speech, not censorship. The First Amendment protects hateful or intolerant expression, but it also protects the voices of those speaking out against it. Here are some practical ideas for more First Amendment education in your classroom: + Teaching students about free speech is essential, especially how it relates to the school environment. Tinker and Hazelwood need to be standard parts of your curriculum. But so do cases like Snyder v. Phelps, Brandenburg v. Ohio and Texas v. Johnson. Students should begin to understand the basic legal reasoning about why the First Amendment protects expression that so many regard as having little or no value. This also includes teaching about unprotected speech and why some expression falls outside the bounds of the First Amendment. + Remind students of ways the First Amendment shows up in daily life: logging onto social media, attending an art show, going to a church youth group, and checking out a library book. These routine activities should be noted and appreciated. In many parts of the world, such simple freedoms are non-existent. + Assign students to investigate how the First Amendment has been the impetus for social change. Movements like the push for civil rights, women’s rights and LGBT rights succeeded solely because advocates used their power to speak, write, publish and protest. + Cover the First Amendment in your publication. If a protest erupts at your school or in your community, student reporters should research how free-speech law is pertinent to the case. Help inform your audience how the First Amendment works by consulting experts whose insights can give readers a deeper understanding of the five freedoms. + As advisers, stay abreast of changes in the law and with new issues that arise related to free speech and the press. Seek continual training through workshops, classes and new curriculum materials. + Ask students to explore issues in the news and to discuss how and why the First Amendment is relevant. For instance, is the government involved in censoring speech? Does the expression fall into an area of unprotected speech? Learning how to talk about the First Amendment, to discuss what is and isn’t protected, and to apply some of the principles mentioned in this article are major first steps to having intelligent conversations about appreciating and protecting everyone’s rights. LIST OF RESOURCES TO LEARN MORE ABOUT THE FIRST AMENDMENT: + Student Press Law Center + Journalism Education Association’s Scholastic Press Rights Commission + First Amendment Center at the Newseum Institute + National Constitution Center + Bill of Rights Institute + First Amendment Coalition