student advisor or a student who did not realize that the Supreme Court had found
extended rights of privacy hidden in the shadows of the constitution.
In May 1983, the principal (Reynolds) of the school properly censored both articles
from the school paper. Reynolds was concerned the pregnant students would still be
identifiable from the text. Principal Reynolds was also concerned the references
to sexual activity and birth control were inappropriate for younger students at school.
The second story concerned divorce and featured an interview with a student whose
parents were divorced, in which she complained her father "wasn't spending enough
time with my mom, my sister, and I ... was always out of town on business or out
late playing cards the guys ... always argued about everything." Reynolds, unaware
that the name of the girl would also be changed, was concerned that her family should
have been given an opportunity to respond in the story, or to consent to its publication.
Editor Cathy Kuhlmeier and reporters Leslie Smart and Leanne Tippett, filed suit
in January 1984 The Federal District Court held for the school.
The US Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the Federal District court.
The US Supreme Court stated that the principal’s actions of prohibiting publication
of the articles was proper. In a 5-to-3 decision, the Court held that the First
Amendment did not require schools to affirmatively promote particular types of student
speech. The Court held that schools must be able to set highstandards for student
speech disseminated under their auspices, and that schools retained the right to
refuse to sponsor speech that was "inconsistent with 'the shared values of a civilized
social order.'" Educators did not offend the First Amendment by exercising editorial
control over the content of student speech so long as their actions were "reasonably
related to legitimate pedagogical concerns."1988, the Supreme Court handed down its
decision: a complete defeat for the students. The majority of the court claimed Tinker
did not apply to this case, since the school newspaper was a school-sponsored activity.
According to the Court, when an activity is school sponsored, school officials may
censor speech as long as such censorship is reasonably related to legitimate educational
concerns. The Court went on to define these concerns broadly, stating that school
officials would have the right to censor material that is "ungrammatical, poorly
written, inadequately researched, biased or prejudiced, vulgar or profane, or unsuitable
for immature audiences, or inconsistent with shared values of a civilized social
Hazelwood did distinguish between school-sponsored publications and other activities,
and publications and activities that were not school sponsored, which the Court suggested
would be given greater free-speech leeway. Nevertheless, the Hazelwood decision was
clearly a defeat for student free speech rights. School officials were now allowed
to censor school newspapers, as well as other school sponsored activities such as
theatrical productions, in "any reasonable manner."
Elementary and Secondary Student Rights Since Hazelwood
Newsom v. Albermarle County School Board (2003) the Fourth Circuit ruled 3-0 in favor
of a public-school student's First Amendment right to wear a shirt from an NRA shooting-sports
camp. The school sought to restrict the wearing of an offensive T shirt. The student
sought a preliminary injunction against the school. The unanimous panel rejected
the school's preposterous argument that banning the shirt was necessary for school
In this First Amendment case, Alan Newsom (Newsom), a six grade student at Jack Jouett
Middle School (Jouett) in Albemarle County, Virginia, appeals from a district court
order denying his motion for a preliminary injunction seeking to enjoin the enforcement
of the portion of Jouett's 2002-2003 dress code which prohibits “messages on clothing,
jewelry, and personal belongings that relate to weapons.” According to Newsom,
the district court should have entered a preliminary injunction because he satisfied
the test governing preliminary injunctions with regard to his claims that the challenged
portion of Jouett's 2002-2003 dress code is both unconstitutionally over broad and
vague. Because we agree that Newsom satisfied this test at the preliminary injunction
stage of the proceedings, we vacate the district court's order denying Newsom's motion
for a preliminary injunction and remand with instructions to enter a preliminary
The court went on to say that they were only granting a preliminary inunction and
that a different result might result when the matter is heard before the Federal
The court wrote that the district failed to show that Newsom's shirt or any other
shirt worn by a student showing weapons created a material disruption. In addition,
the court said that the school's policy is too broad and will likely be found unconstitutional.
Bretton Barber, a Minor, ... v. Dearborn Public Schools (Judge Duggan (2003) In
a similar case in Michigan, a U.S. District Court judge granted a preliminary injunction
in September, upholding a Dearborn High School student's right to wear a T-shirt
to school with a picture of President George W. Bush's face framed with the caption
The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan filed the lawsuit in March on behalf
of Bretton Barber, 17, claiming the Dearborn Public Schools violated his First Amendment
rights when administrators asked him to conceal his T-shirt. The ACLU and Barber
are also seeking unspecified damages and attorneys fees.
District officials said they were worried the T-shirt could arouse an outbreak in
violence even though Barber had worn the shirt for three hours without incident.
In granting the preliminary injunction, the judge wrote that the school district
failed to show evidence the ''T-shirt created any disturbance or disruption.'' The
court also rejected the school district's claim that school grounds are an inappropriate
venue for political speech.
Lower courts have also determined that school officials have broad discretion at
the elementary school level in controlling student speech, ruling in several cases
that Tinker does not apply. However, most legal commentators believe that despite
these developments, Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District (1969)
still remains in force, at least for high school students. School administrators
are still required to show "material and substantial disruption" before limiting
student speech in non-school sponsored activities.
NOTE: The judge did, of course, state that this was not to undermine proper school
discipline and if the school told a student to do certain behavior, even if their
decision was wrong, was to be obeyed by the student.
While considering the present matter, the Court has remained mindful that in
order for schools to effectively serve their purpose it is necessary that students
respect school officials' authority. As the Court stated ... authority figures sometimes
make mistakes, but students cannot be led to believe that it is proper from them
to respond by saying "you're wrong and I
am not going to do what you say." Nothing in this opinion, therefore, should suggest
that school officials may not exercise their authority and prohibit students from
exercising their First Amendment rights within the parameters of the Constitution
and according to the Supreme Court's relevant First Amendment jurisprudence.