Date of Award
Master of Science
The Spectrum, the student newspaper of Hazelwood East High School, St. Louis, Missouri, was censored on May 13, 1983, by Principal Robert Reynolds. Reynolds deemed two articles unsuitable for the younger students, especially fourteen year old freshmen: one an article describing the experiences of three teenage pregnant students at Hazelwood East, which did not in Reynolds' view sufficiently disguise the identity of the three students; and a second article, which identified by name (later deleted pre-publication) students who had made derogatory remarks concerning their parents' divorce and alcohol problems. The staff of the Spectrum was not apprised of the deletion of the two pages until the printed copies were delivered to Hazelwood East for distribution.
Spectrum staff members Cathy Kublmeier, Leann Tippett and Leslie Smart, filed suit in Federal District Court alleging their First Amendment rights had been violated. After a trial in 1985, the court denied an injunction, stating no First Amendment violation had occurred. An appeal was filed and a second trial was held in the Eighth Circuit Court, where the decision was overturned in favor of the students. The court that ruled the Spectn.m1 was a public forum and was intended to be operated as a conduit for student expression. Hazelwood School District on appeal to the Supreme Court won a decision in 1988. The ruling stated that the Spectn1m was part of the curriculum and regular classroom activity and therefore, not a public form. The Hazelwood decision was a serious set back for First Amendment freedom of high school journalists in America.
Through research of literature and interviews with former Hazelwood East High School principal, Robert Reynolds, and former student, Cathy Kuhlmeier-Collins, the study provides an in depth analysis of the events and their impact to the present day.
The legal and journalistic repercussions of the Hazelwood decision are further explained through extensive interviews with attorney and executive director of The Student Press Law Center, Mark Goodman, who also discusses the important role his organization plays in educating student journalists and the results of the Hazelwood decision and the effect on the Spectrum are discussed in interviews with present day Hazelwood East High School journalism advisor, Cheryl Stoller, and student and contributing editor, John Combest. The need to reaffirm the First Amendment rights curtailed by the Hazelwood decision is explored in an interview with Missouri State Representative Joan Bray, who is sponsoring a law in the Missouri legislature that would protect student journalists.
Dirksen, Robert J., "Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier: The Battle for First Amendment Freedom" (1996). Theses. 636.
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