Can my public school administration require us to cover a story in the yearbook?

Every week, Student Press Law Center attorneys answer a frequently asked question about student media law in “Legal Question of the Week.”


Q: Can my public school administration require us to cover a story in the yearbook?

A: Generally no. In addition to protecting one’s right to speak, the important flip-side to the First Amendment is that it also protects a person’s right not to speak, to remain silent. Schools cannot force students to publish an article, editorial or advertisement under their names with which they disagree. Only in the case of a glaring omission  — if the staff refuses to mention graduation or decides to omit the entire freshman class  —  might the school have a reasonable justification to step in. But in such rare instances, the student staff would have a right to demand that their names not be attached to such coverage.

Legal questions should be directed toward SPLC’s legal hotline. Legal Questions of the Week are selected based on trends in the legal hotline. The legal hotline is confidential and no identifying information will be used in the Legal Question of the Week segment.