I'm starting an underground school newspaper. What rights do I have?
Topic: My high school newspaper articles
July 18, 2019 / By Carlota Question:
I'm in Ohio, if that helps with the law, and I'm in a private high school. The newspaper doesn't swear or contain obscenities. There are no racist/sexist/any other inappropriate comments. We don't talk about specific teachers or students. Yes, we do critcize the school on some accounts, but in a lighthearted, humorous manner, not a mean-spirited way. Also, we all use pennames, and the only way to contact us is through an email we set up specifically for the paper. We aren't going to be obvious about distributing copies- we'll leave some on the bathroom counter, desks, or cafeteria chairs when no one's looking.
So- first question. What rights do we have- are we technically allowed to distribute this paper under Ohio law, even though we attend a private school? Also, is there any way they could trace this back to us that you can tell?
The only people who know are me and my two friends, the three people who are in charge of it. And they wouldn't say anything- after all, they'd get in trouble, too! Besides, I trust them.
And we aren't using any school property. We're typing it at home, and copying them at OfficeMax.
Best Answers: I'm starting an underground school newspaper. What rights do I have?
Aneta | 3 days ago
Oh puleeze, it will take the school about 5 minutes to figure out it's you and then you will be sent packing. Private school can kick you out for anything. And then your parents will be stuck with paying your full tuition for the rest of the year, doesn't matter if you're not attending, that's why the school has parents sign a contract. And good luck getting into another private school with that issue on your record.
What you consider lighthearted or humorous will probably be considered mean-spirited by your targets. If it's so lighthearted, why don't you publish it with the blessing of the school? It sounds like you're up to something underhanded.
My son goes to a prestigious private high school and the kids write up articles questioning the school all the time. In fact, one of the reasons I sent him to the private K - 8 he went to was because I read their jr high newspapers and was very pleased that the students had freedom to write about policies at the school they didn't like.
Oh, and your email can be traced -- even if it's *anonymous*. And besides, do you really think that none of the kids will find out, they will see you leave copies, be able to tell by your writing/word style, by what you write, who had that info, etc. And they will rat you out. There is a high chance one of your friends will be found out and turn on you to cut a deal to save their butts. Don't be naive.
If you want to be a legit journalist, then write, and sign your name. Have some guts! If you just want to gossip about others, know that you are setting yourself up for big problems.
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Eventually you will be found out, so to assume that no one will ever know is being naive.
I don't see any problems with the content, but the distribution might get you in hot water with the school.
I would venture to say that they have policies against solicitation, and effectively, by leaving your 'newspapers' laying around, you are doing just that.
Without knowing what you consider 'we do criticize the school on some accounts, but in a lighthearted, humorous manner', I couldn't comment on libel.
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If you us any school property to produce this paper they can bust you. If more than one person knows a secret it more than likely will be disclosed. Private schools can expel you for just about any reason they want.
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Originally Answered: I'm starting a school newspaper! Help?
Sounds like you're getting ready for a great adventure!
I'm not sure what size your staff is, but you might ask each person on your staff to give you an anonymous (unsigned) list of ideas for columns, articles, photos, etc. that they would like to see. (I suggest unsigned so you won't be accused of favoritism "you only picked Mark's ideas because you like him best!" based on whose ideas you think are best.)
How big is your paper going to be? (How many page?) How often will it publish? How big is your school? Those are all questions that will influence your decisions.
Do you have someone who is good at sports writing? Perhaps she or he can write a sports column.
Obviously photos are important. Do you have one or more photographers who have a way to get to important events?
You might try looking at school papers put out by other schools - not to copy ideas, but to inspire you to come up with your own ideas.
Here are a few more suggestions, a few of which are from the good old days - when I was on the staff of a student paper:
**We had a "participation" section each issue, in which students could send in their take on things they liked or didn't like. We called it "Grins and Grimaces." It went something like this: "A student (we didn't use names) who attended the Senior play wants to send a *grimace* to the thoughtless guys in the audience who talked all through the show!" or, "A teacher wants to send a *grin* to the French Club for volunteering to pick up litter around the school grounds."
**A music review column was always a favorite. What's the latest hot album to be released? Is it any good? How does it compare to the artist's earlier work? What do some of the kids around school think of it? (movies are good for this too!)
**Are there any kids you know who can draw? Homemade comic strips are always fun if you have someone who is good at art.
**Letters to the editor - In each issue, you can always ask for students' opinions on current issues. If you give an email address, you'll probably get lots of responses. (although you'll probably have to correct a lot of bad spelling!)
**Special events - if you have any "big events" coming to your school, such as a student play or musical, or a guest speaker, you have a great excuse to go behind the scenes to "get the story." If your paper has a teacher who is consulting or advising you, perhaps she or he can fix you up a special Press Pass!
**Editorials - These are a lot of fun. What's happening that the students of your school like or dislike? Have all the vending machines been filled with celery sticks instead of Snickers bars? Is this a good thing or a disaster? Just take care - sometimes writing an editorial that goes against what the principal or school board likes can lead to some real hassles for the person running the paper!
This may be a little bit advanced, but in case you ever need it, here's a web page about students rights, free speech, and freedom of the press:
May you have the very best of luck with your paper!