Supreme Court lets Ohio ruling on principals stand

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The U.S. Supreme Court let stand in December a state court ruling that public school principals are neither "public figures" nor "public officials" for the purposes of defamation law.

The Court, without comment, rejected an appeal of an Ohio Supreme Court decision, which stated that public school principals do not "occupy a position of such persuasive power and influence" that they can be deemed "public figures" in libel cases.

Security guards confiscate film during weapons search

FLORIDA -- Miami high school officials returned film they had confiscated in February from a student journalist working on a story about random in-school weapons searches -- after they developed the negatives.

Leandro Leon, editor of South Dade High School's newspaper, The Scene, was trying to take a photo of security guards conducting a search when guards from Vanguard Security, a private security firm contracted by the school to perform searches of students, barricaded him in a classroom and confiscated his film.

The guards were searching the belongings of students in a classroom after they removed the students from the room.

"They evidently sealed off all of the exits and thus left me in the room locked in there," Leon said.

"[The security guards] repeated, 'Give me the film!

Editors defeat proposal to put newspaper under control of communications school

TEXAS -- Students and staff won a battle to protect the independence of the student-run newspaper at Texas Tech University in January, defeating an attempt by the director of the mass communications department to take over the publication.

Department director Jerry Hudson proposed in January that The University Daily be "administered by the School of Mass Communications." He suggested the appointment of a "non-student staff" member as a newsroom editor, who would also teach a journalism class in the department.

University Daily staff members strongly objected to the proposed changes, fearing they would lose editorial control over the newspaper. Faculty members also objected, citing a lack of information regarding the proposed changes and voicing support for the independence of the student-run newspaper.

Following widely publicized criticism of Hudson's suggested changes, second and third drafts of the proposal were released.

The First Amendment vs. school safety

One year after the Columbine High School shooting, courts are telling schoolofficials that the First Amendment still applies.

In three recent cases that have tested the balance between students'free-speech rights and school officials' safety concerns, judges have comeout emphatically on the side of free speech.

Courts are warning school districts that despite fears ignited by high-profileshootings like the one in Littleton, Colo., they cannot trample on constitutionallyprotected speech -- even in the name of school safety.

"What the courts are starting to say clearly is that schools don't havethe authority to punish people for exercising their freedom of speech,"said Doug Honig, a spokesman for the American Civil Liberties Union ofWashington, which represented a student suspended for his Web site.

Since January, three separate federal courts have ruled in favor ofstudents who were suspended or expelled for speech that school officialsdeemed threatening.

State appeals court quashes riot subpoena

MICHIGAN -- The Michigan State University student newspaper and 10 other media organizations will not have to turn over unpublished photos taken during a riot on the Michigan State campus, the state court of appeals ruled in March.

The court of appeals upheld a lower court's decision to quash a subpoena issued by an Ingham County prosecutor who sought photographs the media organizations had taken during riots that erupted after Duke University's men's basketball team defeated Michigan State in the 1999 NCAA Final Four Tournament.

The court of appeals will not allow "a prosecutor's office to, in effect, conduct a fishing expedition utilizing the media as its indentured servant," said Judge William B.

Senate locks doors to newspaper office in battle over advertisement

NEW YORK -- The Hudson Valley Community College Student Senate locked the staff of the student newspaper out of its office for eight days in February during a battle over the newspaper's refusal to stop running a controversial ad.

The senate decided to lock the door to the offices of The Hudsonian after members objected to the publication of a full-page ad for a local strip club in the Feb.


As the number of schools wired to the Internet increases, so do fears over the kinds of material students are able to access on classroom computers. Across the country, school boards and state legislatures are responding to these fears by installing filtering software to limit the sites students can access.

Supporters of Internet filters say they are trying to prevent students from viewing sites with inappropriate material, such as pornography.

College president threatens to file libel suit against N.Y. student paper

NEW YORK -- The editors of the Queens College student newspaper delayed distribution of their weekly issue in December after administrators threatened to sue the paper for libel if it published an editorial accusing the college president of lying.

Avi Muchnick, former editor of The Quad, said the dean of students called him the night before publication and told him President Allen Sessoms had "every intention of suing you and the newspaper."

"Suing was never likely," said dean of students Burton Backner.