Fanning the Flames: The Freedom Project Blog

1.26.2007

Up the Right Grove

By Shawn Healy
Representative Dave Upthegrove, a Washington state legislator, has sponsored legislation enhancing student's First Amendment rights in public schools. The bill received its first hearing today, and First Amendment activists everywhere are keeping their eyes in the proverbial ball. The Supreme Court's Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier (1988) decision was seen as a major setback for students' expressive rights, and six states acted in the aftermath to essentially overturn this standard and revert back to the Tinker v. Des Moines (1969) "material and substanial disruption" limitation on student speech. If this bill succeeds, Washington would be the seventh state in what will hopefully become part of a pendulum shift back to students.

The bill allows administrative scrutiny over student publications for content that is obscene, defamatory, or disruptive, but places all liability on the students themselves. Educators must play a prominent role in teaching students journalistic responsibility and ethics, but at the same time prepare them for the realities of the real world. This bill reflects these two values.

I had the opportunity to participate in a conference call with Rep. Upthegrove earlier this month while attending a conference sponsored by J-Ideas in Tampa at the Poynter Institute. His passion for the legislation is admirable, and his efforts were spurred over a cup of coffee he shared with his constituent Brian Schraum, a journalism student at Washington State University. Brian was also in Tampa and spoke eloquently about the need for such legislation based on his experiences as a student journalist at both the high school and college level.

For more information on these developments in Washington State check out the J-Ideas web site. I will keep you posted on the bill's fate, and encourage you to visit the Freedom Museum from February 3rd through March 25th as we debut a special exhibit in the same spirit titled "Speech at the Schoolhouse Gate: Students' Use of First Amendment Freedoms." For those of you who live outside the Chicagoland area, portions of the exhibit will be featured on the Freedom Museum web site.

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SHAWN HEALY

Managing Director

McCormick Freedom Project

Shawn is responsible for overseeing and managing the operations associated with the McCormick Freedom Project. Additionally, he serves as the in house content expert and voice of museum through public speaking and original scholarship. Before joining the Freedom Project, he taught American Government, Economics, American History, and Chicago History at Community High School in West Chicago, IL and Sheboygan North High School in Wisconsin.

Shawn is a doctoral candidate within the Political Science Department at the University of Illinois at Chicago where he received his MA in Political Science. He is a 2001 James Madison Fellow from the State of Wisconsin and holds a bachelor's degree in Political Science, History, and Secondary Education from the University of Wisconsin at Madison.

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About Fanning the Flames and the McCormick Freedom Project


Fanning the Flames is a blog of the McCormick Freedom Project, which was started in 2006 by museum managing director Shawn Healy. The blog highlights the news of the day, in hopes of engaging readers in dialogue about freedom issues. Any views or opinions expressed on this blog represent those of the writers alone and do not represent an official opinion of the McCormick Freedom Project.



Founded in 2005, the McCormick Freedom Project is part of the McCormick Foundation. The Freedom Project’s mission is to enable informed and engaged participation in our democracy by demonstrating the relevance of the First Amendment and the role it plays in the ongoing struggle to define and defend freedom. The museum offers programs and resources for teachers, students, and the general public.


First Amendment journalism initiative


The Freedom Project recently launched a new reporting initiative with professional journalists Tim McNulty and Jamie Loo. The goal is to expand and promote the benefits of lifelong civic engagement among citizens of all ages, through original reporting, commentary and news aggregation on First Amendment and freedom issues. Please visit the McCormick Freedom Project's news Web site, The Post-Exchange at



Dave Anderson
Vice President of Civic Programs
McCormick Foundation

Tim McNulty
Senior Journalist
McCormick Freedom Project


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