Free Student Press advocates students’ First Amendment rights

By Erin Hollingsworth
September 2000
The Matrix (Athens High School-sponsored newspaper)

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American law and justice is based upon its constitution. Its First Amendment is the much disputed and discussed free speech amendment. The newly formed Free Student Press seeks to address First Amendment issues in local high schools, and eventually, high schools around the nation.

The group held its second meeting Wednesday, September 22, at Baker Center. Students from Nelsonville-York High School and Athens High School joined Ohio University students and parents from the community. About 25 people attended.

Its founder, Damon Krane, a sophomore at OU, explains that its purpose is to “educate students about the rights they’re not learning in school.”

Co-founder Lisa O’Keefe, a student at the University of California at Santa Cruz explains that injustices are all around us, and to affect real change, students must be aware of their rights, specifically their First Amendment rights.

In order to create awareness and take advantage of students’ First Amendment rights, FSP hopes to create a periodical that will be circulated throughout the schools.

Based n the 1969 Tinker v. Des Moines School District ruling, students cannot be punished or have an indepdent publications reprimanded if it meets certain criteria. Primarily, it cannot cause a major disruption, according to Krane. It cannot containe obscene material, or false or personal information. While some of these criterium seem ambiguous, the Student Press Law Center’s Law of the Student Press clearly outlines and defines these laws.

In 1988, the <Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier Supreme Court case determined that a school could control, edit, and censor school-sponsored publications. However, this ruling does not affect public forums or independent publications.

Recent so-called “injustices” have plagued local schools. At the September 22 meeting, such things as the confiscation of the Athens High School underground newspaper, The Sink, banning of certain attire at Federal Hocking High School, and an Alexander High School policy which claims all publications are susceptible to school officials’ censorship were discussed.

If any of the above mentioned instances are unconstitutional, none have been taken to court or proven to be so yet. FSP suggests, “Students are afraid to take action.”

The next meeting will be held on Wednesday, October 6, from 6:30-8:00p.m., at Baker Center. Anyone is welcome to attend.

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