The Supreme Court’s 1988 decision in the case Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier defined the level of First Amendment protection public high school students working on school-sponsored publications are entitled to. That case was a follow up to the landmark 1969 Supreme Court decision in Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District. Together, these cases set the standards school officials must meet before they can legally censor student expression under the First Amendment. (State laws and regulations may provide additional protection.)
The links below provide information about how the courts have defined the rights of junior high and high school student journalists.
- Fighting censorship after Hazelwood -
For those student publications that are affected by the HazelwoodSchool District v. Kuhlmeier decision, First Amendment protectionshave been significantly reduced.
- Legal guide to Hazelwood and viewpoint suppression -
A Colorado high school student newspaper wanted to publish two editorials — one in favor of a proposed administration plan to make study halls mandatory for underclassmen and one against the plan.
- Guide to Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier -
An SPLC White Paper on the 1988 Supreme Court Case that drastically affected students' First Amendment rights, Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier.
- First Amendment and Censorship FAQs -
The Student Press Law Center answers your most frequently asked questions about a student’s right to a free press.
- The SPLC First Amendment rights diagram -
Download a diagram determining students' First Amendment rights by state.
- Sample press release to help combat censorship -
A press release, which provides accurate information — with a point of view — to news media, community members and others who might provide public attention or support is an important tool in getting your message out.
- Don’t be mooted: A student plaintiff’s guide to keeping your case alive after graduation -
Although graduation day is traditionally a time for celebration and for new beginnings, it can bring an unhappy ending to the legal claims of a student who is challenging school censorship. In general, challenges to school policies must be raised by currently affected students. When a student graduates, a court may dismiss her claims as moot.
- Student media guide to due process claims -
When Jill Snyder, an eighth grade student at Blue Mountain Middle School in Orwigsburg, Pa., was reprimanded for violating the school dress code, she decided to take matters into her own hands. After school, Snyder went home to create a mock MySpace page ridiculing her school principal.
- From the hotline: do I have fewer First Amendment rights in a journalism class? -
While it's true that these are are factors in figuring out the scope of rights, it's not that simple.
- From the hotline: what do I do when I’m censored? -
We spend a lot of time learning about how the First Amendment is supposed to work and very little time learning what to do when it doesn't.
- Guide for the private school press -
Do students at a private high school or college have to check their free speech rights at the campus gate when they walk to school each morning?
The answer to that question is a resounding maybe.
- SPLC guide to surviving underground - Although student journalists have traditionally developed skills working for school-sponsored newspapers, magazines and yearbooks, an increasing number have turned to independent or "underground" publications in recent years.
- SPLC model legislation to protect student free expression rights -
Model legislation drafted with the intention of creating the highest quality student publications and the most responsible student journalists.
- SPLC model guidelines for high school student media -
A clear school policy protecting student press freedom can prevent many censorship conflicts.