HAZELWOOD SCHOOL DISTRICT v. KUHLMEIER

United States Supreme Court

Argued October 13, 1987 Decided January 13, 1988




Background: Some students in a Journalism II class at Hazelwood East High School wrote and edited the school’s paper, The Spectrum. In the final submission for the paper there were two articles that were questionable. These articles were removed from the paper, and the students (including Kuhlmeier) decided to take it to court on the grounds that it violated their rights to free speech. The articles were on personal stories of divorce and pregnancy. A student spoke of her parents’ divorce blaming her father, who had given no consent or a chance to make a statement in his own defense on the article. The stories of pregnancy were from girls at the high school who had experienced it. While their names were omitted for anonymity, this was not considered enough to protect the girls’ identities.


Decision and Rationale: The Supreme Court decided that the principal had not violated the students’ First Amendment rights to freedom of speech. The paper was sponsored by the school and subject to editing by the school. It was not meant for sharing views, but rather was a requirement for the students in the class. The subjects were students in the school whose identities could have easily been exposed. The father of the student who came forth with the accusing divorce article had not even been informed or given a chance to respond to it. It was in the best interest of the students and the school to remove the articles.


Impact on Teaching: This court case reminds educators that while giving students the right to freedom of speech, it is also very important to make sure the students are protected. There are times when appropriate action is necessary to maintain a safe place for students to come and learn. If this safety is jeopardized by something like an article in a school funded paper, it is the responsibility of the educators to take the necessary steps to protect the reputations of the students and families involved.


Quiz Question: The students' right to freedom of speech is violated by the removal of items deemed inappropriate by school officials from a school funded paper.

True or False

~Chynna Seymour



Megan Debo:

Case: Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier
Argued: October 13, 1987
Decided: January 13, 1988

Background: Catherine Kuhlmeier was the head of East High School's newspaper and she wrote some articles about teen pregnancy and divorce. She also used some of her fellow classmates as examples and to provide further information about the two "touchy" subjects. The principal of the high school believed it was an invasion of the students' privacy since she gave examples about those students. When this articles were restricted from being published, the members of the paper felt the principal violated their rights of the first amendment.The court sided with the school district by the fact that public school rules are higher than just anything being published in the school's documents by students.

Implication: I agree with the school district. The students are given the opportunity to put their thoughts and opinions in the schools' newspaper is a reward.The fact that its a school and minors go to that school, means the paper should have some rules and restrictions in order to keep everyone safe at the school and maintain a healthy environment.

Question: Should the rights of the first amendemnt be the same for students when it comes to the public school atmosphere?