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Threats to campus newspapers.

College students as well as their professors are now paying the price for not speaking out more forcefully against the 1988 Supreme Court decision restricting high school student press rights. In the 1988 Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier decision, the U.S. Supreme Court said the First Amendment's reach stops at a high school's classroom door. Justices said administrators could engage in prior review and the censoring of any material they deem embarrassing or contrary to a school's mission.

Although the court was reticent to say Hazelwood had any application to college situations, university officials and a number of courts have tried to use Hazelwood as a legal justification to muzzle college students ever since. The biggest blow came this year in a June ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in Hosty v. Carter. Judges in the case affirmed Hazelwood censorship aimed at The Innovator, a student paper at Governors State University (Ill.).

"It is a sad day for journalism in the United States," said Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) President Irwin Gratz. "In the states covered by this ruling, students will now spend eight years with prior review and censorship as part of their journalistic experience."

Administrators, justices and legislators would be less enthusiastic about putting a lid on free speech rights if more rights advocates had spoken out against Hazelwood from the beginning. Free speech advocates at the college level must raise their voices against the Hosty decision, write op-eds and letters to the editor in opposition to First Amendment restrictions and enlist with high school students and teachers in the fight to nullify Hazelwood through passage of student free expression laws in state legislatures.

You can see a definite trend here. First, they clamped down on rights at the high school level; now, they are aiming at the college press; we also are seeing the beginnings of an effort to curtail the speech of academics through vehicles such as the misnamed 'Academic Bill of Rights' laws that have cropping up in many state legislatures, including Missouri.

We need to recognize that all of us-at all levels of education-are in this battle together. We need to make some noise and start making the case that the First Amendment does not stop at the classroom door of any institution of learning.

Don Corrigan, professor of journalism
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Author:Corrigan, Don
Publication:St. Louis Journalism Review
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Dec 1, 2005
Words:393
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