I. Statement of Policy
Student freedom of expression is protected by the First Amendment. Accordingly, school officials are responsible for ensuring freedom of expression for all students. It is the policy of Greenwood Community High School that official school-sponsored publications have been established as limited open forums for student expression. Publications provide opportunities for students to exchange ideas and content that reflect areas of student interest, including topics about which there may be dissent or controversy.
GHS student journalists determine the content of official student publications. Accordingly, the following guidelines relate only to establishing grounds for disciplinary actions.
II. Official Student Publications
A. Responsibility of Student Journalists. Under the direction of a licensed journalism instructor, GHS students who work on official publications are responsible for content. These students:
1. determine the content of the publication
2. strive to produce publications based on professional standards of accuracy, objectivity and fair play
3. review material to improve sentence structure, grammar, spelling and punctuation
4. check and verify facts
B. Prohibited Material
1. Students cannot publish matter that is obscene to minors, which is defined as material that meets both of the following requirements: First, the average person applying contemporary community standards will find the publication as a whole offensive. Secondly, the work as a whole lacks serious literary, artistic, political, social or scientific value.
2. Students cannot publish or distribute libelous material. However, under the fair commitment rule, a student may criticize school policy or the performance of teachers, administrators, school officials and other employees.
3. Students cannot publish or distribute material that will cause “a material and substantial disruption of school activities.”
(a) Disruption is defined as student rioting, substantial participation in a school boycott, sit-in, walkout or other related activities. Material that stimulates heated discussion does not constitute this type of prohibited disruption.
(b) For a student publication to be considered disruptive, specific facts must exist upon which one could reasonably forecast a likelihood of immediate, substantial, material disruption to normal school activities if the material were distributed. Mere undifferentiated fear or apprehension of disturbance is not enough; school administrators must show substantial facts that reasonably support a forecast of a specific, likely disruption.
(c) School officials must protect advocates of unpopular viewpoints. The First Amendment exists to protect the minority since the majority can protect itself through sheer numbers.
(d) “School activity” means an educational student activity sponsored by the school and includes, by way of example and not by way of limitation, classroom work, library activities, physical activities, physical education, official assemblies, school athletic contests, band concerts, school plays and in-school lunch periods.
III. Protection of Speech
School officials will not:
1. ban speech solely because it is controversial
2. prohibit criticism of the policies, practices and performances of teachers, the school itself or any other public officials.
3. cut off funds to student publications because of a disagreement over editorial policy
4. ban publication or distribution of material written by non-students
5. prohibit the endorsement of candidates for office at any level
IV. Commercial Speech
Advertising is a constitutionally protected expression. School publications may accept advertising. Acceptance or rejection of advertising is within the review of the publication staff, which may accept ads except those for products or services that are illegal to all students. Political ads may be accepted. The publication should not provide or deny space to only one side of an issue or election.
V. Prior Restraint
School Administrators review no student publications prior to distribution. The school assumes no liability for any student publication and urges all student journalists to recognize that with editorial control comes responsibility, including responsibility to strive for professional journalism standards.
VI. Obituary Policy
Upon the death of any current student or faculty member, Timberlines will publish no less than a brief obituary. If the death being covered was the result of a suicide, extreme caution will be taken.
VII. Published content to Timberlines Online
All content published to Timberlines Online is reviewed by the web editor before publishing. Any violations will be handled internally. Posts published without authorization of the web editor will be removed and revised to be posted at a later time. All students who have access to the website have signed a contract stating they understand their access is a privilege, not a right.
VIII. Updates and corrections
Timberlines Online is managed by the students on the Timberlines staff. Although most errors are avoided, they still do occur. Incorrect information will be taken down and a new revised copy will be posted. Updates to ongoing stories will be posted. If a posted story is updated, readers will be notified by the word “UPDATE” appearing above the post.
Timberlines Online is a public website and can be seen by anyone. Therefore, no private information of a student, teacher, administrator or coach will be posted onto the website. Exceptions include contact information for the Journalism program and any personal information authorized by the individual. No personal information will be posted without consent.
X. Maintenance of website content
Timberlines Online is maintained by one web editor while reporters, photographers, and broadcast members create the content to be uploaded. While it is easy to update the website’s content, it often takes time. Deadlines are in place for stories and photos and are uploaded as soon as possible. The PDF file of the school’s newspaper, Timberlines, is posted under “Issue Archives” every Friday that the newspaper comes out.
XI. Comments and suggestions
Timberlines Online requests that all comments and suggestions remain appropriate. As a school website, profanity and inappropriate language is not allowed. All comments and suggestions, such as story ideas or content requests, will be reviewed. Although some requests may not happen, all of them will be reviewed and considered.
Questions regarding this policy can be directed to the journalism adviser at 317/889-4030 ext. 442.