The Battle for Free Speech Extends…to High School?


These days, the battlegrounds for the debates over free speech are usually found at university campuses. From Yale to Berkeley, students are challenging higher education's long tradition of open engagement with tendentious ideas.

But what about speech in the halls of high school? As California students recently discovered, federal law curtailed their rights to a free media decades ago. When the newspaper staff at San Gabriel High School wanted to write about the recent firing of a popular teacher, the school administration censored the student reporters. Then they suspended the journalism teacher who supported the rights of the students.

As the students learned, the Supreme Court held that high school newspapers are the property of the school. Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier (1988) ruled that the speech contained within belongs entirely to the school and its administration.

California state law, however, tilts the balance of rights back in the favor of a free media. Knowing this, the students at San Gabriel High School fought back. And that's when things got interesting.

Watch Reason TV's video for the full story.