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Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier

    Citation. 22 Ill.484 U.S. 260, 108 S. Ct. 562, 98 L. Ed. 2d 592, 14 Med. L. Rptr. 2081 (1988)

    Brief Fact Summary. The Respondents, Kuhlmeier and other high school students (Respondents), brought suit alleging their First Amendment constitutional rights were abridged when their articles in a school sponsored newspaper were edited out by school officials.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. When engaging in school sponsored activities, the First Amendment Rights of a student may be abridged by the curriculum within which they are working.

    Facts. The Spectrum was the school newspaper of Hazelwood East High School. The Newspaper was published on a regular basis and was funded by the annual budget of the Board of Education. Proofs of articles were submitted to the Principal, who would review the paper prior to its publication. On May 10, 1983, this was done and the Principal objected to the inclusion of two stories, which could have controversial affects on the student body. Upon learning about the exclusion of their articles, the Respondents brought suit in the District Court, seeking declaration that their First Amendment constitutional rights had been violated. The District Court denied relief and the Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit reversed. The Supreme Court of the United States (Supreme Court) granted certiorari.

    Issue. Do a student’s First Amendment constitutional rights extend to articles published in a school sponsored and funded news paper?

    Held. Justice Byron White (J. White). Reversed.
    Writing for the majority, J. White delivered the opinion of the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court held that school facilities are public forums (wherein protected speech cannot be suppressed) only when by policy or practice the facility has been opened to indiscriminate use. School sponsored publications are not public forums when they are funded by a school district, which retains editorial control. Additionally, because work on the Spectrum was for a journalism grade, students were working within curricular guidelines and subject to the editing of school officials.

    Dissent. Justice William Brennan (J. Brennan).
    In his dissent, J. Brennan highlighted that thought control should not be licensed, merely by the fact of school sponsorship.

    Discussion. The heart of the debate in this case goes to school funding. If the school had not been the source of newspaper funding, it may not have been able to assert editorial power over the articles written by students.


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