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William Kritsonis, School Law, Ch 6 Censorship


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Title: William Kritsonis, School Law, Ch 6 Censorship

Censorship of Student Publication
  • You cant tell me what to write!
  • William Allan Kritsonis, PhD

The First Amendment
  • The First Amendment to the united State
    Constitution is part of the united State Bill of
    Rights that expressly prohibits the United Sates
    Congress form making laws respecting an
    establishment of religion or that prohibit the
    free exercise of religion, laws that infringe the
    freedom of speech, infringe the freedom of the
    press, limit the right to peaceably assemble, or
    limit the right to petition the government for a
    redress of grievances.

  • In the First Amendment the founding Fathers gave
    the free press the protection it must have to
    fulfill its essential role in our democracy. The
    press was to serve the governed, not the
    governors. The governments power to sensor the
    press was abolished so that the press would
    remain forever free to censure the Government.

Freedom of the press in the public schools,
however, is governed by a different set of
constitutional precedents. Regulations of the
students newspapers is subject to the Supreme
Court decision in Hazelwood School District v.
Four Categories of Litigations Concerning
  1. School-sponsored newspapers
  2. Nonschool, or underground, newspapers written and
    distributed by students
  3. Materials distributed by students at school but
    written and published by nonstudents
  4. Internet

School Sponsored
  • Hazelwood decision permitted the school to
    control or censor a school-sponsored paper.
    Nonschool publications may be regulated only by
    time, place, and manner of distribution they
    cannot be regulated as to content. These
    restrictions are contingent upon the school
    having created a limited public forum as opposed
    to a nonpublic or closed forum.
  • In Hazelwood the court said that the school
    paper (theatrical productions, and other
    expression perceived to bear the imprimatur)
    was not a public forum.

Underground Publication
  • If a school permits non-school materials to be
    distributed then a limited public forum has been
    created. When this happens the restriction has
    to be content-neutral.
  • Can
  • Place a restriction on time, place, and manner
    restrictions on access to school grounds
  • Cant
  • Control the content as is permitted with
    school-sponsored publications.

Underground Publication Continued
  • Burch v. Barker
  • Student-written our-page newspaper entitled Bad
    Astra. This was critical of the schools
    administration and did not contain vulgarity,
    obscenity, or defamatory statements.
  • The school was not able to review its content
    before distribution it was not school related
    and Hazelwood did not apply.

Religious Publications
  • Distributing religious newsletters written by
  • One court said it was ok, but the other courts
    decision have not been uniformed.
  • Under Hazelwood
  • If School Officials have open to the school to
    indiscriminate use, then the school becomes a
    public forum an a limited public forum can be
    created. If this is the situation distributing
    religious information is constitutional.
  • Dont get caught in the situation / Do not open
    the school to groups.

School officials may exercise editorial control
over school-sponsored publications if they have a
legitimate pedagogical reason. For nonschool
publications if the school has created a limited
public forum, then the school can only control
the time, place, and manner of distribution, but
not the content. If a school policy required
that students submit materials before
distribution, then strong due process procedures
must be in place, or the policy is vulnerable to
prior restraint challenge.
Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier(School
  • Spring of 83, Journalism teacher submit page
    proofs of each Spectrum issue to the Principal
  • May 13 principal object to two of the articles
  • Students experiences with pregnancy (three
  • Impact of divorce on students at the school
  • Principals Concerns
  • Different names were used, but he felt you could
    still figure out who the students were
  • Articles references to birth control and sexual
    activity were inappropriate for some younger
  • Student identified by name regarding a divorce
    parents were not given the opportunity to respond
    or to consent

Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier(School
Editorials) Continued
  • Principal concluded to publish a four pager
    instead of the six eliminating the divorce and
    pregnancy pages or to not publish a paper at all.
    He directed the teacher to withhold the two
    mentioned publications.
  • Courts decision Sided with the Administrator.

Internet and Free Speech
  • Beussink v. Woodland R-IV School District
  • Beussink claims that the Woodland School
    District suspended hem from school for ten days
    because he had posted a homepage on the Internet
    which was critical of Woodland High School. The
    homepage's criticism of the high school included
    crude and vulgar language.

Beussink v. Woodland R-IV School District
  • Court Decision
  • First Amendment right was violated. clean up
  • Student faced academic harm
  • He failed 4 classes because of this and lack of
    credit will delay his graduation at the end of
    the school year.
  • Students homepage did not materially and
    substantially interfere with school discipline.
  • The harm to the student is greater than that to
    the district if the injunction is not granted.
  • District is enjoined from
  • Using the 10 day suspension in its application of
    its absenteeism policy,
  • Enforcing any other sanction arising from
    Beussinks homepage which is the subject of this
  • From restricting Beussinks use of his home
    computer to repost that homepage
  • The injunctive relief was GRANTED.

Beussink v. Woodland R-IV School District
  • Showed a friend at home and she was upset about
  • She told a teacher the next day, but Beussink had
    not given her the address teacher pulled up his
    homepage and told the administration. The
    principal viewed it
  • Student was disciplined because the principal was
    upset that it had been view at school he did not
    know other students have viewed the page by the
    end of the day as well
  • Student suspended for 5 days then a second notice
    was send that he would be suspended for an
    additional 5 days.
  • School has absenteeism policy that drops
    students grades in each class by one letter
    grade for each unexcused absence in excess of ten
    days. Student had 8.5 but the additional 10
    made it 18.5 days.

Rosenberger v. University of Virginia (1995)
  • Wide-Awake Productions was denied funding for its
    newspaper, Wide Awake A Christian Perspective
    at the University of Virginia, because it
    primarily promotes a particular belief in or
    about a deity or an ultimate reality
  • The University unlike most used its Student
    Activities Fund to pay the printing cost not the
    universitys funds.

Rosenberger v. University of Virginia
(1995)(School Editorials)
  • Decision of the Court
  • Ruled as unconstitutional student organization
    funding systems in which some student
    organization expression (e.g., publications,
    speakers, posters) was paid for by the
    university, but that by student religious
    organization was not.

Other Cases to Note
  • Widmar v. Vincet (1981)
  • Lemon v. Kurtzman (1981)
  • Abood v. Detroit Board of Education
  • Board of Education of the Westside Community
    Schools v. Mergens (1990)
  • Kincaid v. Gibson (1997)
  • Lambs Chapel v. Center Moriches Union Free
    School District (1993)
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