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Law & Courts Letter to the Editor

On Hazelwood Ruling and Student Journalism

January 29, 2013 1 min read

To the Editor:

Thank you for reporting on the Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier case, 25 years after the U.S. Supreme Court reversed itself on free-speech protection for secondary school students (“Student-Press Ruling Resonates From 1988,” Jan. 9, 2013).

Included in the article were references to the Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District case of 1969. While Hazelwood concerned school administrators’ censoring of articles in school newspapers, Tinker dealt with the right of students to wear black armbands to protest the Vietnam War.

The Supreme Court ruled in Tinker that neither “students or teachers shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate.” Hazelwood allowed school administrators to limit those rights if they were worried such freedom might disrupt learning or discipline. Thus Hazelwood, Mo., administrators could remove stories about divorce, teen pregnancy, and other sensitive issues prior to the school newspaper’s publication.

At a time when children surf the Internet and engage in instant messaging and Facebook friending, it seems odd that young journalists can be prevented from reporting on “sensitive issues” when care is taken to protect the identities of students. Landmark Supreme Court cases might make interesting special reports for school newspapers.

Unfortunately such landmark cases, from Plessy v. Ferguson, Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, and Korematsu v. United States to Griswold v. Connecticut, Loving v. Virginia, Tinker v. Des Moines, and Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission are not taught in many high school history classes.

Betty R. Kazmin

Medford, Ore.

The writer is a retired Los Angeles teacher.

A version of this article appeared in the January 30, 2013 edition of Education Week as On Hazelwood Ruling and Student Journalism

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