Monday, April 13, 2009

Ill. school board approves prior review policy for student newspaper

This from the Student Press Law Center:

ILLINOIS — After three months of review, the Harrisburg, Ill. school board approved a prior review policy that gives Harrisburg High School Principal Karen Crank authority to review the student newspaper, the Purple Clarion, 48 hours before publication.

Harrisburg Community Unit #3 Board of Education member Judy Cape said there is not much change from the past policy and that she does not believe this is censorship.

"Hazelwood defines the standard of censorship for high school newspapers," Cape said. "It is my intent and expectation as a board member that the paper will be reviewed within those standards. These students still have First Amendment rights under Hazelwood."

Under Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier, high school administrators can censor many school-sponsored student publications if they can show they have a legitimate educational reason for doing so.

In addition to prior review, the new policy requires writers to sign all editorials and opinion articles. Purple Clarion adviser Cathy Wall voiced displeasure with the policy changes at the school board meeting and said that she does not agree with the idea of prior review of content by an administrator.

"Instead of teaching them (the students) to think freely and independently — to watch their government with a critical eye and speak out when something is amiss — we are teaching them to accept the role of government censorship because the principal is a government employee," Wall said in an e-mail...

In Hazelwood, the Court held 5-to-3 that the First Amendment did not require schools to affirmatively promote particular types of student speech. The Court held that schools must be able to set high standards for student speech disseminated under their auspices, and that schools retained the right to refuse to sponsor speech that was "inconsistent with 'the shared values of a civilized social order.'" Educators did not offend the First Amendment by exercising editorial control over the content of student speech so long as their actions were "reasonably related to legitimate pedagogical concerns."

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