Law Review Article Highlights Impact of Speech-Protective Laws

By June 12, 2012

Tyler J. Buller, a 2012 graduate of the University of Iowa College of Law, has posted a draft of an excellent article, The State Response to Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier, online. The abstract reads: 

Student journalism was dealt a significant blow in 1988, when the Supreme Court decided Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier and gave school officials a license to censor any student speech they believe inconsistent with a school’s "pedagogical concerns." As a practical matter, this has led to rampant censorship of stories critical of school officials or concerning controversial topics like sex, drinking, or drug-use. Nine states have adopted so-called "anti-Hazelwood" statutes and regulations that put additional protections between student journalists and school officials. These anti-Hazelwood measures have a mixed track record and are rarely litigated. Until now, there has been virtually no data exploring whether the measures are working and in fact securing a free student press. This Article presents an original study that explores the effectiveness of anti-Hazelwood measures by comparing the content of student journalists’ editorials in states with and without anti-Hazelwood statutes or regulations. The resulting data lend strong support to anti-Hazelwood statutes freeing the student press, as they result in students writing more editorials critical of school officials and more editorials on controversial topics.

One of the most interesting takeaways from the article is that in states that have student journalism-protective anti-Hazelwood laws, student newspapers publish nearly double the number of editorials of student newspapers in states with no such legal protection. Compiling this data took a good amount of legwork, and the findings support a commonsense notion: States that protect student journalists encourage better and more prolific student journalists. Kudos to Tyler!