There have been a lot of remarks about “censorship” of the newspaper published by Stevenson High School in Lincolnshire. Much of the argumentation supporting the students, who claim to have been censored by the school administration, refers to a U.S. Supreme Court case called Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier. Oddly, both sides cite the case to support their opposite positions. Some commentators seem not to have read it. Others seem to have only read other people’s opinion of the decision. So, I guess in order to decide, you’ll have to read it yourself. Then, perhaps, we can have an intelligent conversation.
(a) First Amendment rights of students in the public schools are not automatically coextensive with the rights of adults in other settings, and must be applied in light of the special characteristics of the school environment. 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.
(b) The school newspaper here cannot be characterized as a forum for public expression. School facilities may be deemed to be public forums [p261] only if school authorities have, by policy or by practice, opened the facilities for indiscriminate use by the general public, or by some segment of the public, such as student organizations. If the facilities have instead been reserved for other intended purposes, communicative or otherwise, then no public forum has been created, and school officials may impose reasonable restrictions on the speech of students, teachers, and other members of the school community. The school officials in this case did not deviate from their policy that the newspaper’s production was to be part of the educational curriculum and a regular classroom activity under the journalism teacher’s control as to almost every aspect of publication. The officials did not evince any intent to open the paper’s pages to indiscriminate use by its student reporters and editors, or by the student body generally. Accordingly, school officials were entitled to regulate the paper’s contents in any reasonable manner.
(c) The standard for determining when a school may punish student expression that happens to occur on school premises is not the standard for determining when a school may refuse to lend its name and resources to the dissemination of student expression. Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School Dist., 393 U.S. 503, distinguished. 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.
(d) The school principal acted reasonably in this case in requiring the deletion of the pregnancy article, the divorce article, and the other articles that were to appear on the same pages of the newspaper.