Free Speech in Schools Conference
The proceedings began with a benediction of sorts from First Amendment godfather John Seigenthaler Wednesday evening. Thursday was a busy day packed with six panel discussions and a demonstration specific to internet filtering. The day began with remarks from Mary Beth Tinker, the student who wore a black armband to her Des Moines middle school in 1965 and in the process changed the face of First Amendment law. Panelists like Mark Goodman of the Student Press Law Center, Kevin Bankston of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and constitutional scholar Linda Monk addressed the unique legal challenges to student speech in the digital age, connecting modern cases to the Tinker standard. An evening event at the Freedom Museum featured a performation from the Young Chicago Authors and a First Amendment film produced by Alex Caponga titled "Live Free."
Friday's conclusion focused on the practical development and implementation of First Amendment-friendly policies in our public schools, and means of disseminating the conference report and practical guide for school leaders. Participants acknowledged the dillemas teachers and adminstrators face as they seek to maintain a safe learning environment while respecting students' rights. Media literacy is of utmost concern, along with an appreciation for the First Amendment by all parties as the world changes ever rapidly around us. Watch here for future developments emerging as a result of these deliberations.