by Niamh Doyle
The first amendment right of the American people is as follows:
“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.”
Students in public high schools are not deprived of their constitutional right to freedom of speech when they enter the school’s premises, but the school is permitted to alter the limitations within which a student may exercise his or her freedom of expression. A student does not have the right to infringe upon the rights of other students, or interfere with the work of a teacher or staff. Essentially, an administrator may interfere if a student abuses his first amendment right to intrude upon the freedoms of those around him.
A school-authorized student publication is held to the same standards. School newspapers may not publish that which jeopardizes the freedoms or well-being of the student population or staff; comprises the legal, moral, or ethical specifications to which journalists are held; or interfere upon the pedagogical pursuit of the school. Only when a student publication of this nature fails to comply with such standards can an administrator find it within his rights to censor the student-run press.
Conflict arises over student journalists’ freedom of expression when the interpretation of the aforementioned regulations by the administration differs with the interpretation of the students. When the didactic intent of a student publication transcends the limitations of a school’s academic environment, the students may be obligated to censor or delete sections of the publication that diverge from the administration’s ideals.
(Sources: splc.org, law.cornell.edu)
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