Street Law, Inc. and The Supreme Court Historical Society present

Landmark Cases of the U.S. Supreme Court

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What Would You Do?

Directions

Pretend you work on a high school newspaper and it is your job to decide whether to publish articles. Assume you live in a state that has not passed "anti-Hazelwood" legislation extending greater First Amendment protection to school newspapers than that afforded by Hazelwood.

Below are brief descriptions of six articles you might receive. Your teacher will put you in groups and have each group discuss whether or not to publish the article, and why, and also whether you think the administration of your school would want to censor these articles. You should then be prepared to discuss your article with the rest of the class, and your reason for publishing or not publishing the article, keeping in mind the Supreme Court's decision in the Hazelwood case.

  1. Following a drug arrest at your school, a student writes a first-person account of how his friend got arrested. In the article, he admits to some activities that are in violation of school rules and state law. He criticizes both the police and the security guards at your school. He does not want the article published anonymously.
  2. Reporters from your paper write an article based on a commercial Web site on which students post their ratings of their teachers. The article includes sample comments on teachers in your school, both positive and negative. The negative comments include: "If you get this teacher, run for the parking lot," "Can't teach his way out of a paper bag," and "this teacher had an affair with another teacher (not named)." The teachers are named.
  3. A reporter for your paper writes a long article about the problem of drug use in your school. She interviews several students about their use of marijuana but does not use their names or other personal details about the students that could help identify them. The article makes it clear that marijuana use is widespread in your school.
  4. Reporters for your paper discover that the star quarterback for your football team does not live within the boundaries of the school. They write an article exposing this fact and, of course, naming the quarterback. The consequences of publishing this article will include forfeiting all the wins from your school's football season, which is just ending with a good shot at winning the state championship.
  5. A teacher approaches a reporter for your paper with an article about cheating being tolerated in your school, but the teacher will not agree to have her name used in the article. She says she caught a student cheating on a final exam and gave the student a zero. This failing grade on the final exam resulted in the student, a senior, being ineligible to participate in the school musical, in which she was scheduled to be the lead. Her parents pressured the principal to overturn the grade and the principal did so. Publishing the article would, of course, reveal the identity of the student involved but not the teacher.
  6. There are high-stakes standardized tests given in your school every May. In order to graduate, students must pass these tests. Students have told your reporters that other students obtained a copy of the test in advance from a teacher. The students involved agree to tell what happened if none of the names of any of the parties involved would appear in the article.
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