Hazelwood vs. Kuhlmeier

By: Laura Thomas

Issue

Editors of Hazelwood East High School Newspaper decided to publish two stories on teen pregnancy and divorce. Both articles featured real students and the daily struggles they face surrounding these topics. The school Principal felt these articles were too inappropriate for school. That even though they changed the students names their identities could still easily be found out. Due to his apprehensions the principle prohibited the articles from being published. Enraged the student editors decided to sue taking it to the Supreme Court claiming he violated their First Amendment right.

Decision

In a 5-to-3 decision it was ruled that the Principal did not violate their FIrst Amendment right. They ruled that educators can censor school-sponsored student publications when they have reasons related to educational concerns. The court decided that there is a difference between personal student writing and public and that since this writing would be distributed and read by the entire school the principal is allowed to act as an editor.

Impact

This case established a standard for censorship of school newspapers. The Court ruled that school officials could exercise prior restraint if and when a student newspaper was produced as a "regular classroom activity" rather than a "forum for public expression". The emergence of this case shed light on the clarification on whether school newspapers are a classroom activity or a forum of public expression.