What Is the Significance of Hazelwood School District V. Kuhlmeier?

Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier limited first amendment freedom of speech protection for high school students in school-sponsored publications. The case set a legal precedent that school-sponsored activities, including student newspapers, commencement speeches and drama productions, are not normally protected from administrative censorship by the school under the First Amendment.

Specifically, since the paper was not a public forum but instead was written as an assignment subject to requirements of a high school curriculum, the high school had the right and responsibility to edit the paper. The justices reasoned that because the paper could be seen as expressing the beliefs of the school due to its control of curricula, the school had a vested interest in the articles the paper published.

Two major journalistic concerns also reduced the validity of the authors' first amendment claims: in one article about divorce, the author failed to notify and seek a response from one party to the divorce whom the source of the story blamed for the divorce; in the other article about pregnant students, concerns arose about anonymity of sources because of identifying characteristics. Control of the editing by the school was further justified because of the financial support the school provided, which exceeded the revenues of the newspaper.