October travels: Media Literacy, Freedom Summer, SPLC, Rob’t H Jackson

Audie Cornish, of NPR,  interviews Tanvi Kumar & Gillian McGoldrick

Audie Cornish, of NPR, interviews Tanvi Kumar & Gillian McGoldrick at Student Press Law Center Anniversary

Democracy is more than one election, and students are finding many other ways to participate in the decisions affecting their lives. I met so many this October who are standing up and speaking up, and so many teachers who are encouraging their students to do just that.


At the beginning of October, I met up with Cathy Kuhlmeier, of the famous student censorship case, “Hazelwood v Kuhlmeier,”  and my brother, John.  We started out at Northport HS in NY, where an enthusiastic group of students welcomed us and told us some of the things they’re speaking up about:

“Ferguson,”  more $ for drug prevention programs, more $ for schools from the NY state budget, not having to say “God” in the pledge of allegiance, the rights of trans and gay students, an end to censorship of the arts, marriage equality, the right not to be labeled male or female, a say in the school’s bathroom policies (Talk about basic rights!)

Cathy Kuhlmeier-Frey tells her story to students at Northport

Cathy Kuhlmeier-Frey tells her story to students at Northport

Cathy Kuhlmeier-Frey, Mary Beth & John Tinker with students at Northport HS

Cathy, Mary Beth & John with students at Northport HS

Later that day, we spoke with a group of teachers at Stony Brook who are taking a School Law class from David Scott.  They’re preparing to become school administrators, and we encouraged them to be the kind of administrators who respect student voices. That makes school better for everyone!

The next morning,  it was back to Stony Brook for the NY State Bar Ass’n’s annual Civics and Law Related Education Conference. WOW! Stony Brook is a leader in the growing field of Media Literacy, a way to evaluate the daily, hourly, and minute-by-minute news (or so-called “news) that we’re inundated with. Howard Schneider, Dean of the School of Journalism, broke it down for everyone in a great keynote. Thanks!


At Stony Brook, we also shared a panel with the amazing author and students’ rights activist, David Hudson, whose books are a must if you care about students’ rights.  Thanks to NY State School Board attorney, Jay Worona, for moderating.

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Next, I headed to Oxford OH for a reunion of the Mississippi Freedom Summer volunteers.  The summer of 1964, my parents joined the volunteers in Mississippi for two weeks after Chaney, Schwerner and Goodman were killed by the KKK.  The three young men had just left the training in Oxford when they were killed outside Meridian, MS.

It was a real honor to meet David Goodman, Andrew’s brother, and learn about the Andrew Goodman Foundation.

And, it was also an honor to meet so many veterans of Freedom Summer who continue to be activists today.  In fact, much of the conference was about current civil rights issues, like Ferguson, and voting rights.  It was good to see so many Miami University students taking part.  One told me, “Ferguson is our Freedom Summer.”

 "Algebra Project" students from Mansfield HS present at Freedom Summer reunion

Veterans of Mississippi Freedom Summer

Robert Moses, a leader of Freedom Summer, started his presentation by leading the large audience in a reading of the preamble to the Constitution, “We the people….,” saying that we need a Constitutional right to vote and also a Constitutional right to an education.  After Freedom Summer, he started the Algebra Project,  a successful program not only for learning algebra, but for inspiring students. Albert Sykes, from Jackson, MS, said, “It was the most freedom in school I ever had.  We had always been discouraged from working with other students. With Bob, we were encouraged.”

"Algebra Students" from Mansfield HS present at Freedom Summer reunion

“Algebra Project” students from Mansfield HS on panel at Freedom Summer reunion

At the conference, I gave a workshop telling how the “Tinker” armband case was related to Freedom Summer.  The “substantial disruption” part of the “Tinker” ruling came from a case resulting from it, the “Burnside” case, where high school students wore buttons to protest the killings of Chaney, Schwarner and Goodman, and were suspended.


What a joy to celebrate 40 years of standing up for student journalists!  Besides a great pep talk by Frank LoMonte, SPLC director, we were treated to a hilarious speech by Barton Gellman, journalist and author, about his own HS censorship.

A highlight of the evening was an interview by Audie Cornish, of NPR, of students Gillian McGoldrick and Tanvi Kumar.  Gillian is student editor of The Pickwickian, in Neshaminy, PA, where student journalists voted not to use the word “Redskins”  and were punished by administration.  Tanvi wrote about rape culture for the her high school paper, the Cardinal Columns, in Fond du Lac HS in Wisconsin.  Both were censored, and assisted by the Student Press Law Center.


Audie Cornish, of NPR,  interviews Tanvi Kumar & Gillian McGoldrick

Audie Cornish interviews Tanvi Kumar & Gillian McGoldrick



Next, off to Marin Academy in San Raphael, CA just in time their yearly Conference on Democracy.  I was happy to be joined again by my brother, John, to tell the “Tinker” story.  As part of the conference, there were lots of impressive student-led panels on the militarization of the police, immigration, Ebola, womens’ rights (and much more!)

"Peace & Justice Club", Marin Academy

“Peace & Justice Club, Marin Academy


What a man, and what a few days I had in upstate NY!   One of the most eloquent Justices on the Supreme Court, Robert H. Jackson wrote the decision for the first Supreme Court ruling that established students’ First Amendment rights,

W. Virginia vs. Barnette.   It was good to learn about this great man, who also led the prosecution of Nazi war criminals at Nuremberg.  And, I loved being with teachers in W. Seneca at the continuing program for social studies teachers. What an enthusiastic crowd! Thanks, everyone!

The next day, students at Springville Middle School were some of my favorites.  Not only were they full of energy, but they shared stories from their Human Rights Club, like how they raised $ for Syrian refugees by having a  ‘sleepover for Syria.’  Their award-winning teachers, Joe Karb and Drew Beiter are inspirations!

Springville HS student journalist, Carly Lamos, was a great help all day, and told me about her efforts to start a “Write To Write Love On Her Arms” project at her school.   The group raises awareness about cutting.  Thanks for caring, Carly.

Last but not least was a wonderful few hours with 1st graders (yes, FIRST graders) at Springville Elementary.  It was so much fun to share Ba0 Bao the armband-wearing panda (thanks, Adam!)  Teacher Jeanna Karb is the best!

Bao Bao with her armband

Bao Bao with her armband


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