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Fighting censorship?
Here’s a Blueprint for help in your state

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by Kathy Schrier

It’s obvious, by the frequent reports of administrative prior review and restraint across the country, that there is a lack of clarity about the law and the First Amendment rights of students. The waters, muddied by the 1988 Hazelwood Supreme Court decision, are much more clear now in seven states where anti-Hazelwood legislation has passed.

For the student press in all other states, there is a constant tug of war between student journalists and their administrators over what is allowed: Under what circumstances is administrative control over content justified? What recourse do students have when their rights have been infringed upon? What is the role of the adviser? Who is liable when unprotected speech slips through and is published?

It has become clear that, in the states where legislation has passed, these questions now have answers; in the states where there is no clarifying law, the answers to these questions are ill defined. There are no winners in the resulting tug-of-war between school administrators, their districts, and the student press.

Members of the Scholastic Press Rights Commission decided this situation warranted the creation of a guide for those in states where legislation has not yet passed. This document would be a “blueprint” to guide individuals determined to see scholastic press rights bills introduced their own states. During an intense two-day meeting in March 2012, a team of SPRC Commission members poured over archives documenting successes and failures in passing legislation, and the result is a downloadable Promoting Scholastic Press Rights Legislation: A Blueprint for Success.”

This guide is not a guarantee of success, but the SPRC hopes that it will offer insights into the challenges, and will be a practical reference for those who choose to navigate the unpredictable waters of the legislative process. The information will also be available on our homepage, in the menu section, on the right.

To help provide background information about the Hazelwood decision, download this legal research by theStudent Press Law Center.

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