U.S. Supreme Court refuses to hear Massachusetts ad rejection case

WASHINGTON, D.C. — A Lexington community activist, whose political advertisement was refused by a high school’s student publications, was denied a hearing by the U.S. Supreme Court today.

Douglas Yeo sued the Lexington School District in 1994 after the student editors of both the high school newspaper and yearbook rejected his ad encouraging sexual abstinence.

In 1997, a three-judge panel for the First Circuit Court of Appeals overruled a lower court by defining the student publications as “state actors” who could not refuse advertisements because they received partial funding from the school.

However, a number of organizations, including the Student Press Law Center, filed briefs with the court in support of the school.

The decision was thrown out a few weeks later after a six-judge panel reheard the case and unanimously ruled that since the student editors made all the advertising decisions, there was no First Amendment violation.

Adam Foreman, the district’s attorney, called the Supreme Court’s decision, along with the last circuit ruling, a victory for student media.

“It shows that school publications should have editorial freedom,” he said. “The First Circuit Court of Appeals decision came from a respected court. It was a useful decision that will be used in the future.”

But Yeo said by limiting the issue to the First Circuit’s jurisdiction, which includes most of New England and Puerto Rico, the Supreme Court lost an opportunity to protect the rights of advertisers nationally.

“This hurts the free speech on the part of advertisers who are trying to get their message across through publicly funded areas,” Yeo said. “We believe that this was the wrong decision by the Supreme Court — it hasn’t been the first and probably won’t be the last.”

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