Justice Serves Dalton

by NYC Firm Schools on November 14, 2009

Older students at NYC Firm Schools are often expected to prepare for and understand some of the more sophisticated situations that face adults on a daily basis. This past week, students at Dalton were given first hand experience with the both the legal any journalistic side of adult life after a visit by Supreme Court Justice Kennedy.

The NY Times carried the story of Justice Kennedy’s speech at the school, and how students learned the importance of journalistic integrity.

WASHINGTON — The school newspaper at Dalton, a private school in Manhattan, contained a cryptic note from its editors last Friday.
“We are not able to cover the recent visit by a Supreme Court justice due to numerous publication constraints,” the note said. It promised “an explanation of the regrettable delay” in the next issue.
It turns out that Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, widely regarded as one of the court’s most vigilant defenders of First Amendment values, had provided the newspaper, The Daltonian, with a lesson about journalistic independence. Justice Kennedy’s office had insisted on approving any article about a talk he gave to an assembly of Dalton high school students on Oct. 28. Kathleen Arberg, the court’s public information officer, said Justice Kennedy’s office had made the request to make sure the quotations attributed to him were accurate.
The justice’s office received a draft of the proposed article on Monday and returned it to the newspaper the same day with “a couple of minor tweaks,” Ms. Arberg said. Quotations were “tidied up” to better reflect the meaning the justice had intended to convey, she said.
Ms. Arberg indicated that what had happened at Dalton was unusual. “Justice Kennedy does not have a general policy for making such requests,”

Some very clear points were made by those who criticized the practice as the age and sophistication of the students were a factor in the criticism.

Even at a high school publication, Mr. LoMonte said, the request for prepublication review sent the wrong message and failed to appreciate the sophistication of high school seniors.
“These are people who are old enough to vote,” he said. “If you’re old enough to drive a tank, you’re old enough to write a headline.”

Either way, the students at this NYC Private School were treated to an experience that will not be soon forgotten and have most likely learned an important lesson on politics, legalities and the difficulties that professional journalists must face.

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