How to enhance freedom of the student press.

Fourteen states have enacted laws designed to enhance the freedom of student journalists. These laws came about in response to a 1988 SCOTUS decision that clipped the wings of budding Anderson Coopers. SCOTUS held that school administrators could censor school sponsored publications, such as the student newspaper, yearbook, and school play, so long as they had “legitimate pedagogical reasons” for doing so, Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier. Texas is not one of the 14 states, but we do have bills pending that would add the Lone Star State to the list: HB 2244 and SB 514.

These laws, in general, allow students to express themselves in school sponsored publications in any manner that does not cause a major disruption of school. Of course libel and obscenity must be avoided, but censorship based on “legitimate pedagogical reasons” would no longer be permitted.

One of these laws, the Kansas Student Publications Act, (KSPA) was discussed in litigation arising out of a student walkout/protest after the Parkland school massacre. The lawsuit alleged that school administrators barred student journalists from a part of the protest, and seized the camera that had been provided to a student reporter for her work on the student newspaper. The court held that the KSPA could be enforced through a “private right of action.” This is legalese for “you can be held liable for violating this law.” The court also held that the allegations about barring the student reporters and taking away the camera were sufficient to allege a viable claim under the Act.

It will be interesting to see if Texas enacts a law along these lines. In the meantime, can you guess which 14 states have already done so? You will be surprised at some of them….like Kansas, for example. The Dawg offers a free one year extension of your Daily Dawg subscription for the first reader to correctly identify all 14 states. Send your responses to To do your research on this, check out the Student Press Law Center:

The case from Kansas is M.C. v. Shawnee Mission USD No. 512, decided by the federal court for the state of Kansas on January 28, 2019. We found it at 2019 WL 339545.


Tomorrow: Toolbox Tuesday looks at the “ShouldaKnown Kids.”