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The law of the student press Important court cases Students and the law
Student journalists have the right to report on and editorialize about all topics, events or issues, including those unpopular or controversial, insofar as they affect or interest the school, community, nation and world. However, students have the same legal obligations as those imposed upon all journalists. • Students must refrain from publishing or disseminating information that: • Is obscene, according to current legal definitions; • Is libelous, according to current legal definitions; • Creates a clear and present danger of the immediate and substantial physical disruption of the school; • Is an invasion of privacy, according to current legal standards; and • Advertises illegal products or services, as currently defined by legal definitions
Essential court cases • Tinker vs. Des Moines (1969) • Scoville vs. Juliet (1970) • Fujishima vs. Chicago (1972) • Gambino vs. Fairfax (1977) • Thomas vs. Granville (1979) • Hazelwood vs. Kuhlmeier (1988)
Tinker v. Des Moines 1969 • School officials punished several students for wearing black armbands at school to protest the Vietnam War • The Supreme Court declared that students’ fee speech rights are protected as long as that speech doesn’t disrupt others/schoolwork • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SqQvygBVSxA&feature=related
Scoville vs. Juliet 1970 • Students distributed underground newspaper, “Grass High,” to urge students not to accept propaganda issued by the school and destroy it. • 7th Circuit Court of Appeals said students could NOT be punished for distributing the papers, despite the content, because no disruption actually occurred; the threat of disruption was not enough to deny free speech.
Fujishima v. Chicago 1972 • Two students were suspended for distributing 350 free copies of underground newspaper, “Cosmic Frog;” the Board of Education said they needed prior approval to distribute material. • 7th Circuit Court of Appeals said the school rule requiring prior approval of a non-school publication was unconstitutional. • Therefore, school officials may establish rules (time, place, etc.) for distributing written materials.
Gambino v. Fairfax 1977 • School board banned a newspaper article about unprotected sex; the question of whether or not the paper was a public forum came up. • 4th Circuit Court of Appeals declared a public forum to be: • Constituting of public news, student editorials, and letters to the editors • Distributed outside of a journalism class • 4th Circuit Court of Appeals said once a school newspaper is established as a “public forum” it cannot be censored even if the school financially supports it or students receive academic credit.
Thomas v. Granville 1979 • Students published newspaper “Hard Times” that made fun of the school environment • The paper was distributed off campus • School officials suspended the students for a “morally offensive” publication • Students then sued saying their 1st amendment rights were violated • The court sided with the school….the students appealed • 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that authority of school officials does NOT extend beyond school grounds
Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier 1988 • A principal deleted stories on teen pregnancy and effects of divorce on family in the “Spectrum” newspaper • The Supreme Court decided that public school officials could censor student expression in a non-forum, school-sponsored event. • This affected ALL high school media in 2 ways • Definition of public forum= if you answer “yes” to any of these question, then it is school sponsored and NOT a public forum • Supervised by faculty members? • Publication designed to impart knowledge to students? • Publication uses school/name resources? • If not a public forum, school officials can censor
Hazelwood: a student production • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HXGLm_8YExw&feature=related
Essential question Q: Does the student press have the same rights and responsibilities as the professional press? A: With certain exceptions, yes, student journalists have the same rights and responsibilities as professional journalists. Everyone in America is guaranteed First Amendment protection of expression.
Student journalists have the right to report on and editorialize about all topics, events or issues, including those unpopular or controversial, insofar as they affect or interest the school, community, nation and world. However, students have the same legal obligations as those imposed upon all journalists. Students must refrain from publishing or disseminating information that: • Is obscene, according to current legal definitions; • Is libelous, according to current legal definitions; • Creates a clear and present danger of the immediate and substantial physical disruption of the school; • Is an invasion of privacy, according to current legal standards; and • Advertises illegal products or services, as currently defined by legal definitions
Prior review and censorship • All student press associations agree that prior review, prior restraints and censorship by faculty advisers, school administrators, faculty, school boards or any other individual outside the student editorial board, except as stated on the previous page, and only when these individuals can demonstrate legally defined justification, is not in the best interests of scholastic journalism or education. • In addition, no one should dictate to the student media what the content of their publications should be.
Open vs. Closed Forum • The “public forum” analysis” is a legal doctrine the courts have developed to evaluate the legality of government restrictions on expression on government-owned property such as a civic auditorium or an airport. • Courts have used this “public forum analysis” to determine the level of First Amendment protection students were entitled to. • Public forum analysis recognizes three kinds of government-owned property.
1.) The first is a traditional public forum, a place which by long tradition has been devoted to free expression, such as a street or a park. 2.) The second is the “limited” or “designated” public forum, which is property that has been opened by the government for expressive activity but only for certain groups or for expression on certain topics. • For example, if a city were to allow plays, speeches and meetings at a civic auditorium, that auditorium would be designated a public forum, and the city would violate the constitution if it denied the auditorium’s use for the performance of a play only because city officials found the play offensive. 3.) The final type is the “non-public” or “closed” forum, which is public property that has not by tradition or designation served as a location for free expression, such as a military base or a jail. In the non-public forum, the government can limit expression as long as its restrictions are “reasonable” and not simply an effort to silence a particular viewpoint.
Policies and Laws • Not all schools practice prior review. Some school districts have policies prohibiting prior review and censorship, recognizing the chilling effect of such actions. A number of states have gone even further, establishing laws that protect student journalists from prior review and censorship by school officials, who are recognized as having the same authority as a mayor or a governor, and who should not be involved in the determination of a publication’s content. As one of the primary newsmakers at a school, the principal has a conflict of interest when he/she is allowed to control the content of the publication.
What to do if you are censored….8 steps • 1.) Don’t begin censoring yourself in fear of what might happen at your school! • 2.) Establish your publication as a forum for student expression by policy. • 3.) Establish your publication as a forum for student expression by practice. • 4.) If you are censored, appeal! • 5.) Use public pressure to your advantage. • 6.)Call SPLC or some other legal authority • 7.) Remember alternative publications • 8.) Make a push for legislation in your state to protect student free press rights.