Anniversary of Hazelwood becomes reminder to students

This is a birthday that we’d rather not celebrate.

For the last 25 years, students have had their First Amendment rights restricted by school administrations, citing that some students are “too immature” for some material.

On January 13, 1988, the Supreme Court handed down their ruling on the infamous Hazelwood vs. Kuhlmeier case and declared that school officials could censor any materials that they deemed inappropriate. Since then, principals can regulate what plays theater departments can perform, what music students can play and what stories student newspapers can print. This policy of strangulation should be discontinued in order to preserve the balance between freedom and structure.

The original Hazelwood case was sparked over a principal deleting stories regarding teen pregnancy and divorce, which the principal thought was too controversial for the school’s “immature” student body. When the case reached the Supreme Court, it was decided that this review policy was necessary in order to protect students. While the intention sounds noble, many administrators have abused the power. Stories that disagree with popular beliefs or the beliefs of those in power will sometimes be scrapped without just cause.  The abuse of the system is why it should be abolished altogether. It has become less of a shield for students and more of a sword for administrations.

The restrictions that are enacted while leaning on Hazelwood have gone beyond the typical boundaries of free speech. In Doe v. Silsbee Independent School District, it was determined that a Texas high school could discipline a cheerleader for sitting quietly rather than perform a cheer that mentioned an athlete who, as the school officials knew, was the subject of a criminal complaint which identified him as raping the cheerleader. The justification for the decision– Hazelwood. The severity of these atrocities against student rights will continue to grow until something is done to stunt its growth.

Those that support Hazelwood believe that it is a necessary step in preserving educational values. However, many college programs have been receiving students that are unprepared for the level of freedom and self-control that comes with college life. David Cuillier, Director of the School of Journalism at the University of Arizona, addressed this issue by saying, “They think it’s okay to be told what to print and not to print. They don’t challenge authority like they should. We have to reprogram them. We have to retrain them.”

This anniversary should not be the beginning of another bout of censorship. Instead, we should rejoice in the end of an era and bring back the First Amendment for students. The mentality that Hazelwood brings about is one that goes against what schools should be teaching. As Cuillier put it, “I just have to say, plain and simple, the data shows we’re raising a generation of sheep. I don’t think it’s extreme to say we risk democracy.”