Should schools be allowed to censor school newspapers?

Should schools be allowed to censor school newspapers?

One of the questions that seems to be all over the news lately is whether or not schools have a right to censor the media that is published in a classroom setting.  Some claim censoring school media violates the first amendment while others say we give up some of those rights when we enter public schools.

The first amendment states “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances”.  If schools are censoring media published in schools, then they are violating the first amendment some may say.  A school should only be allowed to censor media if and only if there is harmful material within the articles.  A teacher at Gloucester Elementary School, Lisa Davis, states “schools should only be allowed to censor media if an inappropriate article is published that is controversial to a large proportion of a group.”  When asked what types of articles seemed controversial to her, she said, “anything involving marriage, divorce, pregnancy, and abortion seems to be controversial.  Anything that would be offensive to children.”

When asked if Meghan Lindhal, a student at Ipswich High School, felt as though her first amendment was being violated, she replied, “My first amendment is not being violated because the school is preventing harmful material from being published which causes less controversy within schools.  But, they should only be allowed to censor articles being published if there is threatening or controversial information within the article.”

In a recent National High School Journalism convention in San Antonio, Texas on November 15, 2012, 4,540 students and teachers attended.  Forty two percent of students and forty one percent of teachers stated that they did not publish or air something because school officials had told them not to do so.  Fifty four percent of the students in attendance stated that school officials had censored their material before it was published.  In addition, ten percent of the school officials that attended stated that their jobs were on the line because of the content that was published under their supervision.

In the 1988 Tinker case, the Supreme Court ruled that school officials could not prevent students from expressing their opinions.  They may only express their opinions if the material does not contain disruptive material of the school environment and does not intrude on the rights of others that are reading the article.

In a recent case, Hazelwood vs. Kuhlmeier, the Supreme Court came up with a new standard for protection of student expression in schools.  In the case, Justice Byron White ruled “censorship of school-sponsored student expression is permissible when school officials can show that it is reasonably related to legitimate pedagogical concerns.”  In other words, if a school already has an official policy for censorship set in place, then the Hazelwood standard will apply to all written material published in schools.

Overall, I believe that schools should be allowed to censor media published in school if there is controversial material within the article.  That way, the first amendment is not being violated and our rights are not being intruded upon.