Zucker v. Panitz

299 F. Supp. 102 (S.D.N.Y. 1969)

Decided less than three months after the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1969 decision in Tinker v. Des Moines Indep. School District, this case is important mainly for being the first case to apply the then-new “Tinker standard” to student media.

The principal of New Rochelle High School in New York had ordered the school’s student newspaper editor not to publish an advertisement that opposed the war in Vietnam. The editor and the student group that placed the ad contested his order, and the court held that under the Supreme Court’s recent ruling, the students claim was a valid one. “The rationale of Tinker carries beyond the facts in that case,” the court said.

Striking down the censorship, the court held that the student newspaper was clearly “a forum for the dissemination of ideas.” After looking at the content of the publication, the court said, “[T]he school paper appears to have been open to free expression of ideas in the news and editorial columns as well as in letters to the editor.” Thus the First Amendment protected the students’ “nondisruptive” expression.

The Zucker decision was the beginning of almost 19 years of agreement among the courts on student press rights, which changed following the Supreme Court’s 1988 Hazelwood decision.