Thursday, February 14, 2013
From Education Week:
Twenty-five years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court decided that a Missouri principal did not offend the First Amendment when he removed articles about teen pregnancy, divorce, and other so-called mature topics from a high school newspaper. By a 5-3 vote, the court ruled that, when students use an expressive "forum" provided by their schools, administrators are free to censor their speech on any basis "reasonably related to legitimate pedagogical concerns."
The decision was legally dubious from the start. It was built on the doubtful assumption that students have diminished First Amendment interests in school-subsidized newspapers because those papers are not meant to be vehicles for the expression of student views.
How does the decision affect college students and perhaps our students?
At a recent symposium assessing the impact of the high court's decision, David Cuillier, the director of the University of Arizona's school of journalism, said the college has been forced to adopt a remedial First Amendment course to repair the civic damage done to students in K-12 schools: "I have been so alarmed by the kinds of students coming into our college programs who are completely unprepared for what journalism is about. They think it's OK to be told what to print and not to print. They don't challenge authority like they should."
No less an authority than retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor's Campaign for the Civic Mission of Schools has identified a meaningful voice in school policymaking as one of the foundational necessities for effective civic learning. Hazelwood censorship devalues that voice to the point that many students have stopped even trying to make a difference.