Write On


Public school students in Massachusetts don't have to worry about having their high school paper censored, despite a Supreme Court ruling giving administrators the power to do so. Under a new state law, students can "write, publish and disseminate their views" without "limitation."

The law is intended to counteract a High Court ruling in a case involving the student newspaper at St. Louis's Hazelwood High School. The Court ruled that the principal could block publication of two stories he didn't like. The decision gave broad power to public-school officials to censor student papers.

Mark Goodman, spokesman for the Student Press Law Center, contends that the Massachusetts action is not that radical. "The law simply codifies what had been the standard up until Hazelwood," he says. "Administrators can still censor articles that will cause a material disruption of school activities or a violation of other student rights."

Goodman believes other states will follow Massachusetts. Indeed, legislatures in Illinois, Iowa, Ohio, Rhode Island, Wisconsin, and Wyoming are considering similar measures. And California already has a student rights law that predates the Supreme Court decision.

In each of these states, the American Civil Liberties Union is a prime force behind the drive. "We're trying to encourage other states to do exactly what was done in Massachusetts," said Colleen O' Connor, director of public education for the ACLU. "We feel very strongly about the principle involved here."