Censored: Student News Sources

Schools in the United States are not required to align their rules with the Constitution’s first amendment..  Public school, student run media, is not free reign. Because they’re considered a government agency, they should have to follow the Bill of Rights and the constitution in their facilities. Hence, a school district can be taken to court over freedom of speech laws, similar to the Des Moines v. Tinker case in which the Des Moines School District was sued for removal of free speech because students who wore black armbands to school to protest the Vietnam War were threatened with suspensions. The Supreme Court sided with the students. Similarly, the Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier case was a statement against censorship in the Hazelwood School District, specifically whether or not the Principal could exercise editorial ability over the school newspaper. In this case, however, the students lost at the Supreme Court level, when it was stated that because school sponsored newspapers are indeed school sponsored, censorship is allowed under reasonable circumstances. Thus, even though public schools are considered government institutions and they should be required to adhere to the Bill of Rights, they are not required to allow free dominion on newspapers.

That said, private schools tend to have restrictions on top of those already in place for public schools. This is because private schools can create their own rules and are not bound by a mandate from the state. Private schools are often parochial schools, meaning they are related to a parish, therefore their student run newspapers (generally) must adhere to Catholic teaching, which is much stricter than state mandate.

The Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier case set a precedent that was devastating for many student news sources. Many publications found loopholes, the easiest way to assure their first amendment right be protected being the allowance of their news source to become a forum for expression by all students, as the Hazelwood case made it clear that forums had more rights than the publications. In addition, students have learned their rights and found ways to appeal the censorship placed on them by school principals. In many cases, that has meant appealing to the school district, and sometimes even bringing it to court. As a student run news source, the Rampart itself has been discouraged from writing articles that some higher power deems “not okay.”

Student run publications should be held to a high standard, true, but the standard should be set by the students and their own morals and capabilities instead of the image the school wants to put out.

To read more on the Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier case, click the links below:

Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier

Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier


To read more on the Des Moines v. Tinker case, click the link below:

The Tinker Case