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William Kritsonis, Ch 6 Censorship of Student Publications


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Title: William Kritsonis, Ch 6 Censorship of Student Publications

Censorship of Student Publications
  • William Allan Kritsonis, PhD

Students Rights Tinker v. Des Moines Independent
Community School District
  • The U.S. Supreme Court decision in Tinker V. Des
    Moines Independent Community School District
    (1969) was the standard governing censorship of
    student publications for almost 20 years.

Tinker V. Des Moines Independent Community School
District Cont.
  • It remains the controlling decision in some
    instances. Tinker established that a student may
    express personal opinions, even on controversial
    subjects, unless the students conduct
    materially disrupts class work or involves
    substantial disorder or invasions of the rights
    of others.

Tinker Case
  • Involved several public school students who wore
    armband in school signifying their opposition to
    the war in Vietnam.
  • School officials learned of this and developed a
    rule that any student who wore an armband to
    school would be asked to remove it .
  • If they refused to comply, they would be
    suspended until the armband was removed.
  • The rule only applied to secondary students.

Tinker Case Cont.
  • When elementary students wore their armbands to
    school despite the rule they werent suspended.
  • Instead, the teachers used the opportunity to
    talk about dissent in a democratic society.
  • The older students, who were sincere in their
    beliefs were suspended with the defied the rule.
  • Through their parents, they sued the district
    claiming the regulation and its enforcement
    infringed their constitutional right of free
  • They asked the Supreme Court to grant freedom of
    expression rights to public school students.

Hazelwood School District V. Kulhmeier (1988)
  • This case looked more specifically at student
    publications and allowed school officials greater
    opportunity to censor than Tinker. The student
    newspaper in this case was part of a high school
    journalism class. As such, the Court decided it
    was sponsored by the school and legitimately
    subject to school control over its content and
    style, as long as that control served a valid
    educational purpose.

Hazelwood School District V. Kulhmeier Cont.
  • Under Hazelwood, a publication would likely be
    considered school-sponsored if it is supervised
    by a faculty member, if it exists to teach either
    the students who work on it or those who read it,
    or if it uses the schools resources.

The Courts Involvement
  • The Court distinguished between student
    publications that serve an educational purpose
    and those that exist as forums for student
    expression. Even when a publication is sponsored
    by the school, officials cannot censor its
    content if it is, by policy or by practice, an
    open forum for expression.
  • Likewise, the content of extracurricular and
    underground newspapers may be censored only under
    the Tinker standard, even if the publication
    involves the use of school resources.

The Courts Cont.
  • Courts have generally recognized that student
    publications may be censored if there is material
    that is obscene as to minors or the is libelous.
    Vulgar or foul language is not necessarily
    subject to censorship although in a 1986
    decision, Bethel V. Fraser, the Supreme Court
    upheld the punishment of a student who gave a
    lewd speech before an assembly of 14-year-old
    students. According to Censorship and Selection,
    by Henry Reichman, however, Whether the Supreme
    Court will apply Fraser to student publications
    remains unclear.

  • The Educators Guide to Texas School Law. Jim
    Walsh, Frank Kemerer, and Laurie Maniotis, Sixth
  • Rethinking Schools Online
  • Volume 13, No. 4 , Summer 1999gt Students
    Know Your Rights.
  • www.rethinkingschools.org
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