1988 January 13

Supreme Court Denies High School Newspapers Full First Amendment Rights


A May 1983 issue of the Hazelwood East High (St. Louis County, MO) student newspaper, The Spectrum, contained interviews with three students who had been pregnant. Another story discussed divorce. The school principal thought these were inappropriate subjects for the paper, and he ordered the “offending” stories to be omitted from the published edition. Editor Cathy Kuhlemier and others sued, but in Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier, the Supreme Court ruled on this day that student newspapers were entitled only to a lower level of First Amendment protection than non-school publications.

The Court: “A school need not tolerate student speech that is inconsistent with its basic educational mission, even though the government could not censor similar speech outside the school….[First Amendment protection is justified] only when the decision to censor a school-sponsored publication, theatrical production or other vehicle of student expression has no valid educational purpose.”

Read the Nieman Report on student freedom of the press: http://www.nieman.harvard.edu/reports/article/101739/Freedom-of-the-Press-Stops-at-the-Schoolhouse-Gate.aspx

Learn more: David L. Hudson, Let the Students Speak: The History of the Fight for Free Expression in American Schools (2011)

Learn more about student publications and the First Amendment: http://www.ncac.org/First-Amendment-Schools/student-publications

Learn more at First Amendment Schools: http://www.firstamendmentschools.org/about/aboutindex.aspx

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