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Notes 2E

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Bill of Rights Case 2E for Discussion

Student Newspapers

Students at a Missouri high school wrote two articles for the school newspaper. The first story concerns the problem of teenage pregnancy. It described three fellow students experiences with pregnancy. The names of the students were changed to protect their privacy. The other story concerns the impact of divorce on students at the school.

The school principal decided that this story should not be printed in the paper. He believes that the pregnancy article's references to sexual activity and birth control were inappropriate for some of the younger students at the school. Further, he believes that the divorce story was not objective as it did not allow parents to respond to various assertions made by their children. The principal directed the journalism teacher to delete those two stories from the paper. The paper was printed without those two stories. The student writers sued the principal and the school district asserting a violation of their First Amendment freedom of speech rights.

Questions:

1) Should students writing for a school newspaper be afforded greater freedom of speech rights that students simply speaking?

2) If the student had written about nominating speech in the Bethel School District case and included text from that speech, should the writer be suspended?

3) Should it make a difference whether the paper is a school or student sponsored activity?

4) Is the fact that an article might make people upset a reason not to publish it? Does it matter how many students find the stories upsetting?

5) Suppose a school-sponsored student newspaper attempted to print a story critical of the school official's of decision to spend $10,000 to install a hot tub and steam room in the principal's office. The principal bans publication of the story. What is the difference between that situation and the incident at the Missouri high school?