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Hazelwood School District V. Kuhlmeier

What this amounted to was a reasonableness test. As long as an educators actions were reasonable related to retaining order in school, then an educator could censor a school-sponsored publication. Reynolds had legitimate reasons for censoring the articles. He was concerned that anonymous sources would be identifiable from the context of one of the articles, and that could lead to disruptions in the classroom. He was also concerned about what appears to be a potential case of libel, because an article was going to publish negative information about a parent without giving the parent an opportunity to respond to the articles allegations. Those were legitimate concerns and gave him the right to censor the articles.

Holding

The Court reversed the decision of the Court of Appeals and determined that Reynolds censorship of the articles was not a First Amendment violation.

Reaction

This decision seems to follow both the letter and the spirit of the First Amendment. Many people talk about First Amendment rights as if the freedom of speech should be equated with the right to publication.

The two things are separate and distinct issues. The students had the right to free speech and it does not appear that anyone was trying to prevent them from speaking. They were not penalized for writing the articles. However, the school district sponsored the paper, and, therefore, had competing rights. The school had the duty to ensure that the articles were responsible and would not cause disruption to the school. Had the students been penalized for that speech or had the paper been student-sponsored and disseminated, the principals actions may have been impermissible. This decision seems to strike a good balance between First Amendment protections and a school districts duty to its students.

References

Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier, 484 U.S. 260 (1988).

The Oyez Project. Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier, 484 U.S. 260, Retrieved February

2, 2011 from Oyez, website:.

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