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Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Disappointing news from U.S. Supreme Court

Just receive from Marc Goodman, executive director at the Student Law Press Center: He reports that the U.S. Supreme Court has announced this morning that it will not hear a case that questioned the authority of administrators at an Illinois university to censor a student newspaper that published articles critical of the school.

The Court's ruling lets stand a June 2005 decision by the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that could open the door to providing university administrators with authority to censor school-sponsored speech by public college students and faculty, including speech in some student newspapers, at schools in Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin.

The appeals court ruled that the Supreme Court's 1988 decision in
Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier, which has been used to restrict the First Amendment rights of elementary and high school students and teachers, applied to colleges and universities as well. The appeals court decision was in stark contrast to over three decades of law that has provided strong free speech protection to college student journalists and protected them from censorship by school officials unhappy with what student media published.

By refusing to hear the case, the Court lets stand the extension to colleges of a censorship standard it created to oversee speech by students as young as five years old. The 7th Circuit's decision is only binding in three states and is in direct conflict with decisions of other state and federal courts around the country.

Today's ruling disappointed student press advocates.

"The appeals court decision last year turned on its head the traditional belief that a university is a 'marketplace of ideas' where speech from all sides is not only tolerated, but encouraged. We hoped that the Supreme Court would step in to reaffirm that important principle," said Mark Goodman, executive director of the Student Press Law Center. "We are very disappointed that the Court left that issue to be decided another day."


Jill said...

Very disappointing, and frightening, to be honest.

I'm trying to dig up the blog that covers just issues upon which federal courts conflict. That might be a good place to keep an eye on this kind of thing. As soon as I locate it, I'll let you know.

Thanks for posting this.

Wendy Hoke said...

Let me know what you find and I'll post to it as well. Although this decision doesn't affect Ohio I'm afraid it does throw a bucket of cold water on free speech everywhere.