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Universities cannot ask to review student publications

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Universities cannot ask to review student publications

  • The U.S. Supreme Court’s Hazelwood decision allowing school administrators to review high school publications cannot be applied to college and university media, according to a federal appeals court.

April 11, 2003 — Public colleges and universities cannot require review of content in student-edited publications before they are published, the U.S. Court of Appeals in Chicago (7th Cir.) ruled Thursday.

The case was brought by student journalists at Governors State University in University Park, Ill, after Patricia Carter, the university’s dean of student affairs in 2000 ordered a publishing company to refrain from printing The Innovator student newspaper without her approval of its content. The Innovator has not published an issue since.

In its ruling, the three-judge panel said that the constitutional rights of college student journalists cannot be limited by the 1988 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier , which allows school administrators to censor high school-sponsored student publications by showing they have a reasonable educational purpose in doing so.

“According to U.S. Census Bureau statistics, provided to us in a superb amicus brief filed by attorney Richard M. Goehler on behalf of a bevy of student press associations, only 1 percent of those enrolled in American colleges or universities are under the age of 18, and 55 percent are 22 years of age or older,” the court wrote in its decision. “Treating these students like 15-year-old high school students and restricting their First Amendment rights by an unwise extension of Hazelwood would be an extreme step for us to take absent more direction from the Supreme Court.”

Goehler wrote the friend-of-the-court brief supporting the student journalists on behalf of a group of 25 student and professional media organizations, including The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, brought together by the Student Press Law Center.

In their brief, the media groups stated that they were “gravely concerned over the defendant-appellant’s attempt to apply the demonstrably broad and amorphous high school-based censorship standard to expressive activity on the college and university campuses of this circuit.”

(Hosty v. Carter; Media counsel: Richard M. Goehler, Frost Brown Todd LLC, Cincinatti) JL

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