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Law and order: Draft, Hazelwood decision impact South

By Denebola
Published: February 2011

By Eric Zaff,
Volume 27
February 12, 1988

The Supreme Court ruled last month that school officials have the right to censor school newspapers.
The decision passed by a five to three vote with the court deciding that the school administration can remove subject matter from school publication.
The case was filed when the principal of the Hazelwood East High School in Hazelwood, Missouri, Robert Reynolds, pulled two pages from the school’s newspaper, The Spectrum, because he found the pages that contained articles on teenage pregnancy to be “inappropriate and unsuitable.”
The lower courts ruled in favor of the students, citing the First Amendment, but the Supreme Court ruled that the First Amendment did not apply in this situation because it was a school-sponsored newspaper.
In defending the decision, Justice Byron R. White said, “A school need not tolerate student speech that is inconsistent with its basic educational mission, even though the government could not censor similar speech outside the school.”
But this decision has met much opposition. “I think it’s a step in the wrong direction as far as overall students’ rights are concerned,” Denebola editor-in-chief Tim Proskauer said.
“I think it’s an ominous decision,” Denebola staff advisor, Hal Mason, said.
“I think it has the potential to be extremely damaging to students’ freedom of   expression. I find the Supreme Court’s decision flawed for several reasons. One, it is too vague in its definition of what inappropriate speech is… And, most importantly, it ruled that the mere fact that a student voiced an opinion and viewpoint different from that of the school board and principal was reasonable grounds to censor the free expression of students in school newspapers.”
“I certainly do not like the ruling,” Lion’s Roar editor-in-chief Adam Peller said. “I think it is dangerous because it gives the administration unlimited power.”
In response to Justice White’s defense, Peller said, “Just what is this educational mission? Isn’t it to introduce students to a free democratic society?
“As Justice Brennan said, ‘to teach youth to respect the diversity of ideas that is fundamental to the American system.’ If so, why should a principal have the right to restrict students’ freedom based on his personal views?”
“I disagree with the ruling,” Principal E. Van Seasholes said, “because it’s a further infringement on First Amendment rights, and I feel that students need to learn about government by exercising these rights.”
But not everybody is against the ruling.
“I think the ruling was correct,” Lion’s Roar editor-in-chief Scott Persky said, “because the school is liable as the publisher of the paper and should be able to decide what they want to restrict just like a real newspaper’s publisher has the right to restrict what is written.”
But it is the consensus at South that Seasholes will not exercise his right to censor the school newspapers. “I do not believe that Mr. Seasholes would censor the papers,” Denebola editor-in-chief Jeff Wishnie said.
Seasholes intends not to let the students down.
“I feel we’ve operated very well where the student editor worked with an advisor, and that is what we have done. I’ve made it a practice not to read [the paper] before it is printed because it is the natural tendency to think of the school newspaper as a public relations document, especially since it is sent home,” he said.

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