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    Behind Hazelwood’s Ruling

    Behind Hazelwood’s Ruling: Supreme Court Case Ruled Student Written Articles Can Be Censored If Related To Legitimate Pedagogical Concerns

     The Supreme Court ruled on a case of censorship on January 13, 1988, regarding The Spectrum, a student newspaper, published as part of a journalism class at Hazelwood East High School in Missouri. Principal Robert Reynolds objected to two stories scheduled to be printed on teen pregnancy and divorce in their newspaper. The Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier case was found in favor of Hazelwood School District, overruling a Court of Appeals reversal of a District Court ruling. There were 5 votes for Hazelwood, and 3 against. The justices believed that the censorship did not violate the student’s First Amendment rights of free speech.


    Administrator Michael Nelson speaks about the rights of student journalism. He also expressed the boundaries within journalism. Photo by Ronnie Dayvault.


    Interview with Michael Nelson , Assistant Principal

     Have you ever felt like censoring an article that the Royal News has printed?

    “No, I think that what I see in the student newspaper is a high level of journalistic integrity.”


    In your opinion, what are the boundaries for student journalism?

    “This is not something that would be done without a fault. If it were to destroy someone’s character, or personally attack, or create any danger or concern to the student body.”


    Why is student journalism important in our school?

    “There is a science to it that really helps students to think and process information or deal with situations.  It is also product based learning, which is where students work together as a team to create a newspaper, one that not only informs students but serves the common good. It’s a reward for the students to see what they’ve done through print and what is put online, so it is well worth it.”


    Do you believe that students should have the right to express their opinions on any subject?

    “Everybody has a right to their opinion. Everyone has a right to express their opinion within a certain context. So I would say yes, with limits.”


    What are some issues that would force your hand in censoring?

    “When you talk about censoring something you’re talking about limiting free speech.  I would censor if I were to know in advance that there was slander that would create a substantial amount of fear towards the students. I cannot imagine that would happen in our student newspaper. ”

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