The First Amendment
The foundation of today's society rests upon the words of our forefathers. The Constitution claims that "the people" shape their own government. Who are "the people"to which this document refers? Americans have long struggled with defining "the people". Blacks, women, and homosexuals all deal with this issue, b ut today youth emerge as a challenged group. Students are often a censored body, thus not enjoying protection under the First Amendment. Schools profess they are protecting the rights of the majority, but in actuality, they are violating the rights of the individual through the denial of their First Amendment rights.
Legally, the question is to what extent does the First Amendment apply to students? The First Amendment states, "Congress shall make no law... abridging the freedom of speech...". In 1988, the Supreme Court ruled on a case, Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier, that would create an obstacle for future students to overcome. In the Hazelwood decision, the Supreme Court said school administrators had the right to censor student publications (Top Ten 1). According to this decision, the First Amendment does not have students under it's protective umbrella. School boards use this ruling to censor students today.
A battle against the Hazelwood decision is being fought and won all over the country. According to the Student Press Law Center, winning this battle began in California with the passing of a student-expression bill. California was the pioneer state to add such a bill to it's Constitution, but it is not the only state to have one. Today a total of six states have such bills: Arkansas, California, Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, and Massachusetts (Top Ten 1). This bill reverses the Hazelwood decision, making it more difficult for administrators to censor student journalists. In Michigan, Lynne Martinez, a Michigan lawmaker, is trying to pass a similar student-expression bill. Martinez hopes to pass this bill to prohibit school officials from "prior review or restraint" of any school publication (Taylor 1). Martinez questions, "Professional papers aren't censored. Why should student publications be?" (1). Many organizations, such as the Student Press Law Center, are designed for the sole purpose of protecting students' First Amendment rights. According to the SPLC, Hazelwood doesn't apply to publications opened as "public forums for student expression." (Top Ten 1). Such organizations help, but they don't completely reverse the Hazelwood decision. Something must be done to eliminate Hazelwood as a deciding factor.
Although these bills are helpful, they do not eliminate censorship in the other forty-four states. In December of 1999, the distribution of a school newspaper came to an abrupt halt in Elkton, Oregon. The editor of arts and entertainment wrote a response that Superintendent Charlie Sharps deemed "offensive to the community." (Student's 1). Because of senior Andy Baird's editorial response,...