End High School Censorship sign now

We would like to bring to your attention the problem of censorship in our public schools. In 1988, the Federal Supreme Court issued its decision in Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier, a case in which a an issue of the Spectrum (Hazelwood High School's student newspaper) was censored by Hazelwood's principal. The Court's decision affirmed the right of principals to control student publications. However, since 1988, six states (Arkansas, California, Colorado, Iowa, Kansas and Massachusetts) have adopted so-called Anti-Hazelwood legislation that grants students more First Amendment rights, such as freedom from prior review and censorship of controversial articles. It is our hope that other states will follow their lead and bravely work towards giving the voters of tomorrow the rights that they deserve.The issue all comes down to the idea that, as U.S. District Court Judge Rodney Sippel said, "Disliking or being upset by the content of a student's speech is not an acceptable justification for limiting student speech." Without more solid and precise protections of students' expression, school principals are able to make arbitrary judgments about the appropriateness of student editorials. Controversial issues are avoided instead of discussed with an open mind. Democracy is founded on the belief that there ought to be a "free marketplace of ideas," which certainly ought not to exclude students. Obviously, if an article would disrupt the education process, there would be legitimate reason for censorship, but that is too often not the case. Reasoned debate over the important issues of today's chaotic world ought to be a welcome medium in which education can be accomplished.As concerned students and citizens, we urge you to look into the case for free expression. It is a right guaranteed to all of us by the First Amendment, and it ought to apply to high school students as well. We hope that you have the courage and decency to put partisanship aside and promote the cause of student journalists within every state. Let freedom ring.

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Jenny BenderBy:
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