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Hazelwood School District vs. Kuhlmeier (1988)
In 1983, the principal at East Hazelwood High School near St. Louis censored the school newspaper by completely removing two pages from the publication. The pages contained articles about teenage pregnancy and the impact of parents’ divorce on children. The articles on pregnancy included interviews with three Hazelwood students (whose names were not used) about how they were affected by their unwanted pregnancies. There was also info about birth control in the story. The story on divorce included interviews with Hazelwood students (whose names were not used) about the problems they had suffered when the parents split up. School officials were concerned that the identities of the students might become known. They said they acted to protect the privacy of the students. The principal also said the divorce story was unbalanced because it did not have quotes from the parents. The US Supreme Court stepped in and ruled that the censorship was permissible under the First Amendment. This ruling involved the censorship of a high school newspaper that was published as part of a school curriculum. In other words, the court ruled that public high schools have the right to regulate, for legitimate educational reasons, the content of non-forum, school-sponsored newspapers. The court suggested that the full force of the ruling would not necessarily apply to a high school paper published as an extracurricular activity where any student might contribute stories. It said that educators do not offend the First Amendment by exercising editorial control over the style and content of student speech in school-sponsored publications as long as their actions are related to legitimate teaching concerns. This means school officials could censor out material they found poorly written, vulgar, profane, or unsuitable for immature audiences. The court also said it did not have to decide if the ruling applied to school sponsored college and university newspapers.
Does freedom of speech extend to a school newspaper? Read the above scenario and consider the issue of free speech in this instance. Afterwards, research all facets of the issue and develop an opinion. You will be graded on the depth of thinking you show, the logical progression of ideas in your argument, and the degree to which you effectively support your opinion. You will also need to address the Essential Question, Is information power?
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