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William Allan Kritsonis, PhD
Educational Law Series - Censorship

Published in: Education, News & Politics
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  1. 1. You can’t tell me what to write!<br />William Allan Kritsonis, PhD<br />Censorship of Student Publication<br />
  2. 2. The First Amendment<br /> 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.<br />
  3. 3. 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 government’s power to sensor the press was abolished so that the press would remain forever free to censure the Government.<br />
  4. 4. 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. Kuhlmeier<br />
  5. 5. Four Categories of Litigations Concerning Publications<br />School-sponsored newspapers<br />Nonschool, or underground, newspapers written and distributed by students<br />Materials distributed by students at school but written and published by nonstudents<br />Internet<br />
  6. 6. School Sponsored<br />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. <br />In Hazelwood – the court said that the school paper (theatrical productions, and other expression perceived to “bear the imprimatur”) was not a public forum.<br />
  7. 7. Underground Publication<br />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.<br />Can<br /><ul><li>Place a restriction on time, place, and manner restrictions on access to school grounds</li></ul>Can’t<br /><ul><li>Control the content as is permitted with school-sponsored publications. </li></li></ul><li>Underground Publication Continued<br />Burch v. Barker<br />Student-written our-page newspaper entitled Bad Astra. This was critical of the schools administration and did not contain vulgarity, obscenity, or defamatory statements. <br />The school was not able to review it’s content before distribution; it was not school related and Hazelwood did not apply.<br />
  8. 8. Religious Publications<br />Distributing religious newsletters written by nonstudents.<br />One court said it was ok, but the other courts decision have not been uniformed. <br />Under Hazelwood<br /><ul><li>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.
  9. 9. Don’t get caught in the situation / Do not open the school to groups.</li></li></ul><li>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.<br />
  10. 10. Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier(School Editorials)<br />Spring of ’83, Journalism teacher submit page proofs of each Spectrum issue to the Principal<br />May 13 principal object to two of the articles:<br /><ul><li>Students’ experiences with pregnancy (three students)
  11. 11. Impact of divorce on students at the school</li></ul>Principals Concerns<br /><ul><li>Different names were used, but he felt you could still figure out who the students were
  12. 12. Articles references to birth control and sexual activity were inappropriate for some younger students
  13. 13. Student identified by name regarding a divorce – parents were not given the opportunity to respond or to consent</li></li></ul><li>Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier(School Editorials) Continued<br />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.<br />Court’s decision: Sided with the Administrator. <br />
  14. 14. Internet and Free Speech<br />Beussink v. Woodland R-IV School District<br />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&apos;s criticism of the high school included crude and vulgar language.<br />
  15. 15. Beussink v. Woodland R-IV School District<br />Court Decision:<br /><ul><li>First Amendment right was violated. – “clean up” homepage
  16. 16. Student faced academic harm</li></ul>He failed 4 classes because of this and lack of credit will delay his graduation at the end of the school year.<br /><ul><li>Student’s homepage did not materially and substantially interfere with school discipline.
  17. 17. The harm to the student is greater than that to the district if the injunction is not granted.
  18. 18. District is enjoined from:</li></ul>Using the 10 day suspension in its application of its absenteeism policy, <br />Enforcing any other sanction arising from Beussink’s homepage which is the subject of this lawsuit, <br />From restricting Beussink’s use of his home computer to repost that homepage<br /><ul><li>The injunctive relief was GRANTED.</li></li></ul><li>Beussink v. Woodland R-IV School District<br />Showed a friend at home and she was upset about it<br />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<br />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}<br />Student suspended for 5 days then a second notice was send that he would be suspended for an additional 5 days.<br />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.<br />
  19. 19. Rosenberger v. University of Virginia (1995)<br />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”<br />The University unlike most used its Student Activities Fund to pay the printing cost not the university’s funds.<br />
  20. 20. Rosenberger v. University of Virginia (1995)(School Editorials)<br />Decision of the Court:<br /> 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.<br />
  21. 21. Other Cases to Note<br />Widmar v. Vincet (1981)<br />Lemon v. Kurtzman (1981)<br />Abood v. Detroit Board of Education <br />Board of Education of the Westside Community Schools v. Mergens (1990)<br />Kincaid v. Gibson (1997)<br />Lamb’s Chapel v. Center Moriches Union Free School District (1993)<br />