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Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier

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Amie Wambach

on 7 January 2014

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Transcript of Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier

Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier
The Supreme Court's decision on Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier has left a lasting impact on high school journalism. Because school sponsored newspapers are part of a curriculum and not designated as a public forum for expression, schools can censor anything a student says in the paper, as long as it might disrupt education
The students believed that their First Amendment right to a Free Press was being violated, and, led by Kathy Kuhlmeier appealed to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri . The court agreed with the school, because the school, which sponsored the paper, had a right to censor its students if it had a good enough reason to do so.
The school decided to take the case to the Supreme Court and was granted a writ of certiatori. The case was argued on October 13 1987, with Robert Baine arguing for the school and Leslie Edwards arguing for the students
Unsatisfied, the students took their case to the Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit who reversed the decision of the district court because, while the paper was part of curriculum, it was also considered a forum for student expression, and that to censor it was a violation of the students’ First Amendment rights.
Because there was no time to edit the articles, Reynolds had Emerson delete the two pages that they were published on, removing several completely fine articles.
The Supreme Court decided in favor of Hazelwood in a 5-3 vote on January 13, 1988. Justices Rehnquist, White, Stevens, O’Connor, and Scalia were in favor, while Justices Brennan, Marshall, and Blackmun were against
Justice White wrote the majority opinion, stating that “Educators are entitled to exercise greater control over this second form of student expression to assure that participants learn whatever lessons the activity is designed to teach, that readers or listeners are not exposed to material that may be inappropriate for their level of maturity, and that the views of the individual speaker are not erroneously attributed to the school. ”
Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier

Argued October 1986
Decided January 1988

The Spectrum was the school sponsored newspaper for the Journalism II class at Hazelwood East High School. As part of the curriculum, the students, would write and publish several editions of the paper throughout the year. In the last paper of the school year, two questionable articles were included in the paper, one about teen pregnancy, and the other about divorce.
Background cont.
As usual, the students turned in a proof of the paper to their teacher for review before publishing. The teacher, Howard Emerson, decided to show the articles to Principal Robert E. Reynolds because he was not sure that the articles were appropriate.

The Principal believed that the articles were inappropriate , because he was worried about the privacy of the girls interviewed in the pregnancy article. The divorce article contained a statement from a girl who complained about her father and blamed him for her parents' divorce. Reynolds believed that it
was unfair to publish the article without giving her
father an opportunity to respond to her comments
The dissenting opinion was written by Justice Brennan, and expressed the view that "If mere incompatibility with the school's pedagogical message were a constitutionally sufficient justification for the suppression of student speech, school officials could censor each of the students or student organizations in the foregoing hypotheticals, converting our public schools into ...enclaves of totalitarianism,"
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