Some student media at universities in Indiana, Illinois and Wisconsin may have felt left out in the cold after the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear Hosty v. Carter in February. The case questioned the authority of administrators at an Illinois university to censor a student newspaper that published articles critical of the school.
In February, the U.S. Supreme Court announced that it would not hear an appeal in Hosty v. Carter, a case that questioned the authority of administrators at an Illinois university to censor a student newspaper that had published articles critical of the school. The Court’s refusal means that an earlier decision by the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals stands as law for some student journalists. The case changes the free press landscape for America’s college student media. But just how much? And what should be done? The SPLC answers some questions posed by college journalists.
Across the United States, college cartoonists like Keesee are dealing with offended readers, protests and scolding administrators over the content of cartoons.
One organization’s efforts to push Catholic universities to adhere more strictly to the Church’s teachings have forced schools around the country to take sides in a debate on free expression.
All 50 states have civil libel laws that allow victims of allegedly defamatory statements to seek compensation from speakers. Criminal libel laws are different in that they allow the state to fine or imprison speakers of defamatory statements. Seventeen states, including Colorado, currently have criminal defamation laws, according to a December 2005 update on criminal defamation statutes by the Media Law Resource Center.
Perhaps the oral sex article would have raised awareness and maybe even spurred conversations between parents and kids (which could have been fodder for its own embarrassing moments issue). But that article has been censored on two separate occasions.
“Public forum” may not be as titillating as the other two words that have been causing some controversy recently in high school media — oral sex — but they are more important because they can actually dictate whether a high school journalist has the First Amendment protection to write about oral sex (or teen pregnancy, divorce, teen suicide, etc.).
Lawmakers in Massachusetts and Georgia have pushed recently for greater access to campus crime information. A bill before the Massachusetts Legislature would make police departments at private schools in the state that have law enforcement authority subject to open records laws. A Senate vote on the Massachusetts bill has been postponed repeatedly.
One high school journalism expert agreed that public records are a resource that can be crucial for nailing a great story, but many high school reporters do not take advantage of public records often enough.
While most disputes involving student online content result in meetings, suspensions and in-school discipline, a handful of cases have moved to the courts, where students have challenged school punishment and cited their First Amendment right to express themselves online.