By Matt Gallagher
January 28, 2004
Athens Messenger: front page
A local student righst group urges high schools to include a list of free speech rights in student handbooks in an effort to educate students about their rights as members of a democratic society.
Free Student Press seeks to inform high school students of their legally protected First Amendment press rights to distribute their own publications at school. The group conducted a study of the student handbooks of all five high schools in the county and found that no handbook informed the students of their rights to publish and distribute literature on school grounds without editorial control of the administration.
Since 1969, the U.S. Supreme Court has recognized the right of stuents to distribute independently produced literature at public schools without editorial control from school officials, as long as the literature does not cause serious disruption of school activities or invade the rights of others. This decision was handed down in the case of Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District, and is known as the Tinker Standard.
The Tinker Standard applies only to independent student publications, while school sponsored publications and activities such as school newspapers, plays, or art exhibits are still subject to administration editorial control.
Free Student Press contends most students don’t know about these rights, and school handbooks would be an optimal way of informing students of their free speech rights, which is essential to education in a free spciety.
“Publi schools are the vehicles through which society attempts to prepare students for adult citizenship, and should inform students of their rights regarding the press,” said Damon Krane, co-founder of Free Student Press. “Handbooks are one way, as well as civics and social studies classes.”
Alexander, Nelsonville-York and Federal Hocking high schools each include policies in their handbooks mentioning student publications. Athens High School and Trimble High School handbooks contain no policies regarding student publications.
Policies of some school districts would probably not stand up in court, Krane said. Nelsonville-York High School’s student handbook states, “Any person or organization wishing to distribute material to a school, either to faculty, staff or students must submit a copy of said materials to the principal
[Editor’s note, 2/17/13 – The continuation of this article is missing from my digital scans of old print editions, and the article is no longer available online. I will post the missing portion of this article as soon as I locate it.]