James Madison University Charges Student Journalists With 3 Violations

Student reporters face charges of trespassing, disorderly conduct, and noncompliance with an official.


Two student reporters have been charged with trespassing, disorderly conduct, and noncompliance with a school official by James Madison University and its police department, the Breeze reports. The Student Press Law Center says the school will decide if it will take disciplinary action at a hearing on November 5.

The incident took place on October 18. According to the Breeze's accounts of the story, Breeze reporter Katie Hibson came to Hillside Hall, a residence hall on JMU's campus, to report on a trespassing incident that had occurred the day before. A resident of the dormitory invited Hibson into the building after Hibson identified herself, Hibson says. After she interviewed students inside the dorm, Maria Lane, a resident adviser in Hillsdale Hall, asked Hibson to leave. Hibson says she left immediately.

Later that day, Hibson says she returned to the building, this time with Breeze Editor-in-Chief Tim Chapman and Hillsdale resident and Breeze Assistant Sports Editor Emmie Cleveland. Hibson attempted several interviews before being asked to leave again by the same resident adviser and the building's resident director. The resident director, Sarah Woody, then called police. According to the Student Press Law Center, the reporters left minutes after being asked to vacate the premises, and the police never came to the dormitory.

The incident brought up concerns about student reporters' First Amendment rights.

"I don't have anything against JMU," Chapman tells the Student Press Law Center. "But I'm not going to just sit back and let charges that violate the First Amendment go through."

Woody and Lane did not respond to the Breeze's requests for comment.

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