Hazelwood v. Kulheimer

Background:


Students of Hazelwood East High School in St. Louis, Missouri, were the creators and editors of the Spectrum. In May of 1983, the principal, Robert Reynolds, reviewed the paper prior to publication. When he was looking at the paper, he found a couple of articles that concerned him. The first article was addressing teen pregnancy, with comments from anonymous pregnant students. The second article was concerning divorce, and many negative comments were about parents. The principal was concerned about the identities of the students and parents. The article also mentioned sex and birth control, which Reynolds did not think was appropriate for the ninth graders.
Reynolds decided to delete the two pages with the articles and still publish the rest of the paper. The students were not informed of this decision right away. The two pages that had been deleted had non-offensive articles printed on them too. They took their case to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri.


Constitutional Significance:


The students were questioning whether Reynolds had violated their rights for Freedom of Press under the First Amendment. The First Amendment allows Americans to express themselves in print and other sources of media. The government cannot practice censorship, or it cannot ban printed materials merely because they contain alarming or offensive ideas. It can also not censor information before it is published or broadcast.


Decision/Precedent:

The Supreme Court decided that schools have the ability to refuse certain student work that does not meet their standards. This can only happen as long as the school has a good reason for doing so. Schools have now applied this decision to student yearbooks, stage performances, and student-based Web pages.

Important Concepts:

Even though the Freedom of Press in the First Amendment allows Americans to express themselves, schools do have the ability to censor information if it is school-sponsored and not a show of individual expression.


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by Sarah Bloomer and Alex Badulis