The Constitution And Student Publications: Two Legal Theories (editorial Autonomy)

Date of Award




Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Educat.D.)


Educational Leadership


Overview. Because freedom of speech and freeom of press embrace the right to distribute literature, and under some circumstances protect the right to know and receive information, student-produced publications have been accorded some degree of constitutional protection. Yet these privileges vary, depending upon the school setting and the maturity level of the audience for which the publication is intended.Purpose. To avoid costly liability suits and political controversies stemming from prior review and post-publication punishment of student publications, school officials must understand the implications of any regulations affecting student publications and establish policies designed to minimize successful constitutional challenges to the validity of these policies. This legal article reviews the legal issues pertaining to the rights and responsiblities of student press and suggests guidelines for developing policy which will not impose constitutionally invalid limitations on the First Amendment rights of students producing both school-sponsored and unofficial student publications.Results. This article concludes that the continuum of First Amendment rights moves from the relatively unrestricted conditions of traditional and limited open forums toward the narrower privileges and diminished rights of minors in non-public forums. It offers a two-step, Classic Construction model for examining the restraints on journalism class products in secondary and elementary schools: first, placing the burden of proof on students to produce probative evidence that school officials acted impermissibly and, second, upon such proof, shifting the burden to school officials to demonstrate that their actions were not mere pretexts to restrict unfairly student expression. Finally, it provides a framework and specific criteria by which school officials can test whether their actions that limit the student press are supported by a substantial and legitimate educational interest which will be upheld in court.


Education, Administration

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