Fighting for free speech: Adam Goldstein

Schools get away with violating students’ free speech rights half the time and get away with it because students don’t speak out, Adam Goldstein, an attorney advocate for the Student Press Law Center, told students Wednesday at American University.

Goldstein said he’s answered roughly 11,900 questions about free speech issues since starting at the Student Press Law Center in 2003.

Goldstein graduated from Fordham University School of Law where he received his undergraduate degree in Internet journalism. He worked as a freelance producer and editor for FoxNews.com. He now works for the Huffington Post.  The Student Press Law Center is the nation’s only legal assistance agency dedicated to helping high school and college journalists, advisers, and those working on their behalf, according to the Huffington Post’s website.

Goldstein told students that they are at a time when their free speech wants are compromised. “Students and prisoners don’t get the full benefit of the First Amendment,” Goldstein said.  Also, “you’re individually liable for everything you do—not your parents,” he said.

Though discussing a serious topic, Goldstein managed to find a little humor in the circumstances he’s encountered. One situation involved a purported 17-year-old “Duke of Cleveland” from England who visited an American school, but was later discovered to be a sex offender from Florida.

Goldstein’s discussion also included information on privacy rights. “You don’t need permission to take someone’s picture in public unless it’s for commercial reasons,” he said.

Goldstein said he’s dealt with everything from copyright to libel claims, and censorship is involved in around 40 percent of his cases.  Most of the questions he gets are from students wanting to write about poor school conditions but are censored by administrators, teachers or parents.

Goldstein left students with this advice: “The only reason to ever censor something is for someone not to read it.”