Warning of a "profound threat" to university journalists and educators, a coalition led by the Student Press Law Center that includes every major national organization of college journalists and journalism educators as well as the schools, faculty or department heads from every accredited college journalism program in Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee are preparing to file a friend of the court brief before the federal U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit , urging it to reverse the federal district court1s decision in Kincaid v. Gibson applying a high school censorship standard to college student media.
The Chronicle of Higher Education has joined Miami University and Ohio State University as a co-defendant in a federal lawsuit brought in January by the U.S. Department of Education to prevent the schools from releasing student disciplinary records.
The headline appeared clever, not controversial; "Students Bag Ethics in Contest," it claimed, introducing an article about a recycling drive held by a school club. Yet it would take another seven months for that headline to be read by students.
The state supreme court upheld the dismissal in February of a lawsuit brought by a Virginia Tech administrator who claimed that she had been defamed when the student newspaper identified her as the university's "Director of Butt-Licking."
Whether school administrators can control college publications under the 1988 Hazelwood decision, which limits high school students First Amendment rights, is now in the hands of a federal court of appeals.
Chalk up another victory for universities insisting that student disciplinary proceedings must be kept closed. In February, the state court of appeals upheld a lower court's decision that open proceedings of student disciplinary hearings at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill would violate federal law.
A high school student has appealed a state circuit court's ruling that he "stepped over the bounds of constitutional protection" by "advocating direct and disruptive action against the school" when he distributed an underground newspaper.
A state court ruled in March that a public school principal is a "public official," squarely addressing the status of principals for purposes of libel law.
The administration at the University of North Alabama is trying to be the first to use the November Kentucky State ruling.However, the plan has backfired, at least for now, according to Flor-Ala editor Tyler Greer.
Administrators at three universities around the country have pulled back the curtain of secrecy that protects students accused of crimes on their campuses. For different reasons, the school officials have said, in effect, "Let the sunshine in," in their efforts to increase openness and public awareness of campus crime.