First Circuit grants rehearing in ad rejection case

MASSACHUSETTS — The 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, today, granted apetition to rehear a case that student journalism groups had warned could have ripped the heart out of scholastic journalism programs in New England and potentially around the country.

The court withdrew the panel decision handed down on June 6, 1997, in Yeo v. Town of Lexington and will rehear arguments before the full en banc panel of judges during its September 1997 session.

In the June 6 decision, a three-judge panel had ruled 2-1 that Lexington HighSchool student publications violated the rights of community memberDouglas Yeo when student editors refused to accept advertisements that Yeohad submitted for publication. The ruling surprised many by suggesting that high school students could be turned into “state actors” simply by participating in a school-sponsored student activity.

In a larger sense, the earlier decision suggested that outside advertiserscould exercise more control over the content of a high school student publication thanthe student editors themselves.

The ruling had also cast doubt on the effectiveness of a state lawin Massachusetts that guarantees students the right to free expression.

The Student Press Law Center filed a friend of the court brief insupport of rehearing on behalf of every national scholastic journalismorganization just a week before the court granted the petition.

Previous Stories:

Court says Mass. high school student publications must accept ads; validity of state free expression law in question(6/9/97)