Editorial: ‘Hazelwood’ ruling still vital to campus newspapers

Chelsey Fisher

Editor’s Note: The following represents the views of the editorial board.

Twenty-five years ago this week, the Supreme Court ruled in the 1988 case of Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier, stating that school administrators had a right to control and regulate school newspaper content if there are “legitimate pedagogical concerns” at stake, and the content goes against the educational mission of the school.

Though the original decision only applied to high schools, some decisions by courts since then have expanded the Hazelwood ruling.

The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, with jurisdiction in Wisconsin, Illinois and Indiana, ruled in the 2005 case Hosty v. Carter that the ruling in Hazelwood applied to colleges.

The Editorial Board believes this is a good time to affirm our commitment to the idea that The Appalachian, and all students should be able to speak and probe issues freely, and be aware of the obstacles to free speech that exist on campus.

Since none of the courts impacting North Carolina have applied Hazelwood to college news organizations in the UNC system, this doesn’t seem like a pressing issue for The Appalachian and related media.

But the reports done by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education on the University of North Carolina system say otherwise.

According to a January 2006 joint report produced by FIRE and the Pope Center for Higher Education Policy, “13 of the 16 colleges in the UNC system have at least one policy that both clearly and substantially restricts freedom of speech.”

FIRE has criticized Appalachian State University policies relating to issues of diversity and harassment as being so vague as to potentially pose a threat to freedom of speech. FIRE has also criticized the university for computer policies, according to thefire.org.

We believe that The Appalachian, as a forum for free expression on issues important to students and the university, should not be prevented from exploring issues frankly and thoroughly.

Only a persistent commitment to guarding our free speech rights will make this function possible.