Opinion

Free speech? Not at public schools

The landmark1988 Supreme Court case of Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier set a scary standard for First Amendment restrictions at public (high school) institutions when a 5-3 majority decided that “.educators do not offend the First Amendment by exercising editorial control over the style and content of student speech in school-sponsored expressive activities so long as their actions are reasonably related to legitimate pedagogical concerns,” as Justice Byron White said at the time. The infraction in question? The newspaper at Hazelwood East High School, compiled by students, was submitted to their adviser, who in turn asked the school’s principal for approval. Based on the inclusion of stories about divorce (in which the principal felt students’ quotes may have been unfair to parents who could not respond) and teen pregnancy (in which the principal feared anonymous respondents would ultimately be identified as the pregnant students, and didn’t feel that stories about birth control were appropriate for high school freshmen), the principal had the paper published without the pages containing those stories. The students were infuriated, and with good reason.

Last Tuesday, the Supreme Court declined to decide whether public university administrators can censor student newspapers by controlling the content of the stories. The paper’s editor in chief and managing editor, as well as a reporter, had sued various officials at Governors State University in University Park, Ill., and the university itself, for the school’s requirement that all student stories be approved by the administration after the paper had written a series of stories in 2000 critical of the administration (including a story critical of the school’s decision not to re-hire the paper’s adviser).

Whereas Hazelwood was a case of censorship over questionable content for an age-appropriate audience, and thus is somewhat understandable, the case of these students in Illinois is over the fact that the paper, in playing the role of the watchdog, was doing what it was supposed to do. According to an Associated Press story, “lawyers for media programs at Northwestern University, Pennsylvania State University, the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Georgia, the University of Missouri, and Syracuse University” told justices, “An uncensored college newspaper is vitally important to attracting college students to journalism and providing them with a real-world training ground that prepares them to become professional journalists.” Of course, the absurdity of stripping college writers of their First Amendment rights may have been dwarfed by the irony of an administrator telling students that their stories must be approved by an administrator-after the students were critical of administrators. These students should clearly be infuriated.

And with good reason.

February 28, 2006

Reporters

The Miami Hurricane

Student newspaper at the University of Miami


Around the Web
  • Miami Herald
  • UM News
  • HurricaneSports

The Miami Hurricanes will have plenty of talent on both sides of the ball this season, and four play ...

Jesus Luzardo had yet to throw a single pitch as a professional baseball player in 2016 when he unde ...

Former Miami Hurricanes quarterback Robert Marve has been arrested in Hillsborough County on an out- ...

Mark Richt has led the Miami Hurricanes back into the national college football conversation during ...

University of Miami coach Mark Richt and his vaunted 2018 signing class, nicknamed #Storm18, should ...

Following the summit between Trump and Putin, reaction from politicians, pundits and former intellig ...

A School of Communication associate professor played an important hand—an artistic one!—in World Cup ...

University of Miami law and political science professors weigh in on Trump’s SCOTUS nominee. ...

Research bioclimatologists with the UM Synoptic Climatology Lab counsel cities on how to manage risi ...

A UM-led study is examining how children’s play behavior at beaches could impact their health. ...

The University of Miami's volleyball team earned the American Volleyball Coaches Association (A ...

University of Miami head golf coach Patti Rizzo announced the 2018-19 schedule, featuring nine tourn ...

The Canes are well represented across the nation this summer with players competing in each of the t ...

The University of Miami had four student-athletes selected to the watch lists for the Maxwell Award ...

The University of Miami's Symone Mason closed out the 2018 IAAF World U20 Championships with a ...

TMH Twitter
About TMH

The Miami Hurricane is the student newspaper of the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Fla. The newspaper is edited and produced by undergraduate students at UM and is published weekly in print on Tuesdays during the regular academic year.