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Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier
In May 1983, students in the Journalism II class at Hazelwood East
High School in St. Louis, Missouri, generated the final edition of
their school paper, the Spectrum. As was customary, they submitted
the paper to their advisor, Howard Emerson, who was new to the
job. He followed the procedures of the recently departed previous
advisor, giving the principal, Robert Reynolds, the opportunity to
review the paper prior to publication.
When Reynolds reviewed the paper, he found two articles that
concerned him. The first article addressed the issue of teen
pregnancy, including comments from pregnant students at the school.
Although names were not given, Reynolds thought there were
enough details in the article to make it easy for other students to
determine the identities of the pregnant teens. He was concerned
about the privacy of those students. The second article was about
divorce and, like the first article, this one included personal articles.
In this article, Reynolds was not concerned so much about the
students, but, rather, about what they said about their families. For
instance, one student whose parents were divorced made negative
comments about her father, claiming that her father was always out
with the guys, that he didn't spend enough time with his family,
and that the father and mother were always arguing. Reynolds was
troubled by the fact that the father had not been given a chance
to defend himself by responding to his daughter's comments. He
also noticed that the article mentioned sex and birth control. He did
not think that students in ninth grade should be reading about sex
and birth control.
Reynolds wanted the students to make changes in their articles, but
he was afraid that if they took the time to do so, they would miss
the deadline for publishing the Spectrum. He did not want that to
happen, especially because it was the last issue of the year and
there would not be another chance to publish the paper. He felt
like he had to make a quick decision, so he told Emerson to
delete the two pages with the questionable articles and publish the
remainder of the paper. He informed his superiors in the school
system of this decision; they supported him wholeheartedly.
The students had invested a great deal of time and energy in
producing the paper and felt that they had followed proper
journalism procedures. If they had been approached about the
problems, they may have been able to resolve them. They were
upset to find out instead that two pages, which included a number
of non-offensive articles, had been deleted. They felt that this
censorship was a direct violation of their First Amendment rights, so
they took their case to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern
District of Missouri. This court did not agree with the students; the
judges said that school officials might impose limits on students'
speech in activities that are "an integral part of the school's
educational function" as long as their decision "has a substantial
and reasonable basis". In other words, the court felt that if the
school has a good reason to do so, it could place limits on
curricular activities, such as the publication of the school newspaper.
Unhappy with the outcome, the students appealed their case to the
Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit. This court reversed the
decision of the lower court, saying that the students' First
Amendment rights were violated. In the opinion, the court conceded
that the newspaper was indeed a part of the school curriculum but
noted that it was also a "public forum". As a public forum, the
newspaper was "intended to be and operated as a conduit for
student viewpoint". Because the paper was a forum for student
discussion, the principal or other officials could censor it only when
"necessary to avoid material and substantial interference with school
work or discipline . . . or the rights of others".
The school appealed the decision of the Court of Appeals and the
Supreme Court of the United States agreed to hear the case. In
determining whether or not students' rights were violated, it would
consider whether or not the student newspaper was a public forum
and whether the First Amendment "requires a school affirmatively to
promote particular student speech".
1st Amendment – Freedom of the Press Notes
We all want to be informed and have the right to make informed and reasoned decisions about issues that
affect our lives. We can read the news, watch it, listen to it, spread it, publish it, and speak it. To do so, we
need accurate, reliable, timely news. A free press provides us with the information we need to make
personal and professional choices.
While the First Amendment allows for freedom of the press, it has been widely accepted that press
freedom isn’t absolute, and that there are some limits on what journalists can print. While it is presumed
that the truth is always printable, the courts have always held that there must be some form of redress for
persons who are defamed in print.
While many people know the First Amendment allows for freedom of the press, some may not know that
this freedom is not absolute. Reporters, editors, and publishers must ensure that when they print
something about someone or broadcast it, they are not defaming that person. Defamation means
hurting someone’s good name or reputation by false statements or misrepresentations. Slander
refers to verbal defamation. Printed or broadcast defamation is known as libel.
History and Evolution of the Freedom of the Press
Who was John Peter Zenger?
What happened that landed him in trouble with the British Governor?
What was the result?
Founding fathers referred to this landmark case during their discussions about a proposed amendment to
the U.S. Constitution to protect the freedom of the press. Despite the Zenger trial and the First
Amendment, Government officials and the press have since had running battles over what can and
cannot be published. Government often tries to restrain, control, or drive the press, while the press
often tries to gain more access to the government and even to influence it.
What did President Adams sign into law in 1798?
Why did he sign it?
It was against the law to / punishment?:
Who was Daniel Ellsberg?
What did he release to the press (New York Times)?
What happened?
What was the outcome?
What happened in New York Times Company v. Sullivan?
What was the outcome?
What was the reason behind Court's majority position?
Sheppard v. Maxwell – What was the charge?
How did the Press taint Sheppard’s name?
What are steps taken now to prevent this from reoccurring?
Freedom of the Press does not give automatic immunity from legal investigation. A newspaper reporter
does not have the right to refuse to answer questions from a Grand Jury concerning the identity of a
source. Even if the reporter was given the information in confidence, the Supreme Court ruled that such
information must be revealed if it is linked to criminal activity.
What about school newspapers?
What was the connection between The Spectrum and the principal?
What were the stories about?
What was the Principal’s reason to deny the articles?
How did the U.S. Supreme Court rule?
What is the Hazelwood Standard?
In the summer of 1798, the United States was close to war with France. Many members of the
Federalist Party, including President John Adams and Federalist leaders in Congress, not only
believed that their Democratic-Republican opponents were pro-French, but that their vocal
opposition to administration policies was dangerous to the country’s security. Therefore, to
silence (as well as to weaken) the Democratic-Republican party, Congressional Federalists
passed four statutes which are collectively known as the Alien and Sedition Acts.
Three laws were aimed at foreign aliens, who tended to support the Democratic-Republican
Party and its leaders:
the Naturalization Act, which required that aliens to be residents within the US for 14
instead of 5 years before they could become US citizens.
the Alien Act, which granted the President broad powers to deport during peacetime any
non-US citizen he deemed "dangerous to the peace and safety of the United States."
the Alien Enemies Act, which permitted the federal government to arrest, deport or
imprison any alien belonging to an enemy nation at war with the United States.
The final statute was the Sedition Act. This measure aimed to curb public criticism of the Adams
administration, especially at the hands of pro-Democratic-Republican newspapers. Passed on
July 14, 1798, the Act asserted that to "print, utter, or publish . . . any false, scandalous and
malicious writing” against the federal government - including the President himself - was a
treasonable crime punishable by up to 2 years imprisonment and/or fines.
Although the Adams administration did act upon the alien laws, the Sedition Act was enforced
with great energy. Over two dozen pro-Republican newspaper editors were arrested, fined, and
imprisoned. Their newspapers, moreover, were shut down. Included among those charged was
Benjamin Franklin Bache, grandson of Benjamin Franklin and editor of the pro-Jeffersonian
Philadelphia paper, the Aurora.
These efforts to halt political dissent backfired. Many Americans believed the acts
unconstitutional and were outraged that newspaper editors had been charged and imprisoned.
The acts also led to the passage of Virginia and Kentucky resolutions(1799), written by James
Madison and Thomas Jefferson respectively. Passed by their state legislatures, these resolves
condemned the actions of the Fedealist Congress and asserted that the states had the authority to
declare them (and all tyrannical statutes) unconstitutional.
The Alien and Sedition Acts also politically weakened the Federalist Party during the election of
1800, especially after the diplomatic crisis with France passed without war. After Thomas
Jefferson’s election to the presidency, Congress repealed the Naturalization Act in 1802, while
the other statutes were allowed to expire.