No one lives in a Hazelwood state
by Candace Perkins Bowen, MJE
The first time a journalism teacher in a convention session asked for advice because she lived “in a Hazelwood state,” I know I frowned. What? You may be in a state that doesn’t protect student speech, but how would that make you a Hazelwood state?
The important news is — it doesn’t.
In 1969 when Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District said students don’t shed their constitutional rights at the schoolhouse gate, this meant all students — it was a protection.
But Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier (1988) didn’t overturn Tinker. And it didn’t say schools HAD to censor or prior review. In fact, eventually we have found some pretty big loopholes. For one thing, your state CAN pass legislation that protects student speech, as North Dakota did in April 2015 to join the other nine states that have laws (and two that have education codes). This new surge of interest in legislation has emerged in more than 21 states, with many adopting the New Voices name.
The more we can do to discourage school officials from seeing Hazelwood-supported censorship as an obligation but instead perceiving it as an embarrassment, the better off scholastic journalism will be. Avoiding the ‘Hazelwood state’ moniker is one way to do that…Mark Goodman
But even if your state doesn’t offer such protection, you have options. For one thing, you can operate as an open forum for student expression, either by your board policy or by your own practice of having students make content decisions and avoid prior review.
As former SPLC director Mark Goodman, now Knight Chair in Scholastic Journalism and professor at Kent State, said, “It goes back to the fact that Hazelwood never requires censorship by school officials. Too many people misread or misinterpret Hazelwood as being a directive as opposed to a permission.”
He pointed out that even in these so-called “Hazelwood states” many student journalists have strong First Amendment protection as a result of their school’s policy or practice of designating them as a public forum.
“The more we can do to discourage school officials from seeing Hazelwood-supported censorship as an obligation but instead perceiving it as an embarrassment, the better off scholastic journalism will be. Avoiding the ‘Hazelwood state’ moniker is one way to do that,” Goodman said.