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Hazelwood and the Students’ Right to Write

428Writing is integral to student publications and the NCTE Beliefs about Students’ Right to Write  note that,

“The expression of ideas without fear of censorship is a fundamental right.”

Yet in 1988, the Supreme Court ruled in Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier  that “educators do not offend the First Amendment by exercising editorial control over the style and content of student speech in school-sponsored expressive activities so long as their actions are reasonably related to legitimate pedagogical concerns.” Okay so far, but…

Too often this ruling has been interpreted in schools and districts to mean that educators can censor school-sponsored student expression, including some student publications, if they feel a legitimate educational concern exists. Needless to say, both the ruling and its various local interpretations have limited the First Amendment rights of student journalists by giving educators and administrators both prior review of student publications and the right to stop stories before they go to press and even after.

NCTE supports both the Students’ Right of Expression and Students’ Freedom of Speech and Press. Members of AASP/JEA, NCTE’s largest assembly, support these rights as well. Together, we’ve supported efforts in many states to limit the Hazelwood ruling by creating their own standards to ensure that protections for student expression remain.

We are joined by the Student Press Law Center and many other First Amendment groups in our support for student journalists. SPLC offers suggestions for “Fighting Censorship After Hazelwood”  and the teachers interviewed in The Council Chronicle article “The First Amendment: A Powerful Way to Teach Critical Thinking” explain how they strive to inform their students about the First Amendment and the rights it provides them.