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Fighting Censorship

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  • Ask the administration to state in writing exactly what is objectionable about the censored material. In many cases involving the student press, the administration's objection is based on an article's viewpoint, which is not an acceptable ground for censorship.
  • Review the censored material and determine whether it is "unprotected.'' By definition, unprotected speech is not covered by the First Amendment and can be censored. The most common categories of unprotected speech in student publications are obscenity, libel, invasion of privacy, and material that causes a "substantial disruption of school activities.''
  • Discuss the issue with the principal or censor. If the talks prove fruitless, take the case to the superintendent or the school board. These attempts to settle the dispute are critical; many courts won't hear a case unless all available administrative means of resolution have been exhausted.
  • If all discussions fail to resolve the matter, a lawsuit is an option. For additional information on filing a suit and a list of First Amendment lawyers who may take on the case free of charge, contact the Student Press Law Center at (202) 466-5242.
    --W.C.

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