The Instigator
Interrobang
Con (against)
Losing
14 Points
The Contender
Flare_Corran
Pro (for)
Winning
18 Points

School Newspaper Censorship (Public schools)

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 3/29/2009 Category: Society
Updated: 5 years ago Status: Voting Period
Viewed: 7,144 times Debate No: 7600
Debate Rounds (3)
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Votes (6)

 

Interrobang

Con

This is my first debate on this website, so excuse me if I don't follow a certain format, or do this incorrectly. It would be nice for my opponent to make mention of my mistakes.

The issue is school newspaper censorship in public schools. Private school are a completely different issue, so let's leave that for another time.

My opinion: School newspapers should not be censored based on personal opinion, unless they threaten safety, if it is libelous, or extreme slander.

Example 1: A principal does not have the right to remove an article that is anti-gay marriage because they are a supporter of gay marriage.

Example 2: They do have the right to censor it if it encourages students to beat up and attack a gay member of the school.

"Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier", a Supreme Court case, states that students cannot be censored by student officials if they have established the paper as a public forum.

According to splc.org (Student Press Law Center), a school publication is considered a public forum when school officials have allowed student editors to make their own decisions.

Because every school newspaper is run by the students and for the students, and you need school official approval to start an "official" paper representing the school, it can hardly be argued that it is considered a public forum, and it cannot be censored.

Now, going off of personal opinion, I don't think any student should shed their First Amendment rights when entering a school. The school is part of a country that allows it, and the difference in surroundings shouldn't determine constitutional protection. The laws our country were founded on should apply in every normal situation, whether it be school, restaurant, home, whatever. It's not fair that students should be censored for throwing their opinion out there.

School paper censorship discourages teens from printing compelling stories, because they feel they can't print them in order to prevent criticism. This shies them away from a journlaism career, and this isn't what we want, is it?

Now for your rebuttal:
Flare_Corran

Pro

From your remarks, I am assuming that you are referring to an official school paper, rather than one produced spontaneously outside of the school, and simply distributed inside it. ("you need school official approval to start an "official" paper representing the school...")

If the paper receives any form of funding or support (including working on the paper during school hours, a teacher being paid to help supervise, etc.) from the school, it is bound by a different set of rules than ordinary speech. The school is liable for statements made by the paper, and thus should be able to exercise authority over it.

By the school supporting the paper, even if the support is limited to distribution, the paper is no longer merely student speech, it is given the authority of the school officials. Because of that, if the school officials disagree with it, they should be able to step in and reject articles.

In the first example you gave, with anti-gay marriage, the school official would be within his rights to remove an article if he believed that it did not make it clear that the article was entirely the opinion of the student, or if the paper did not print both viewpoints. I agree that students do not shed their First Amendment rights when entering a school, however, I believe that the First Amendment no longer applies when the school is helping them propagate their ideas.
Debate Round No. 1
Interrobang

Con

Again, the Hazelwood case states that it is considered a public forum with approval from the school. This would then mean that it is supported by the school, which you state would negate 1st Amend. rights. However, it is still a public forum, regardless of school support, and FA rights still do apply.
Flare_Corran

Pro

If that were the case, then I would disagree with the Hazelwood decision. That proceeds from my argument, because if the Hazelwood case says censorship cannot exist, and the Hazelwood case is correct, then censorship is not allowed.

However, the text of the decision (from http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com...) states that "we hold that educators do not offend the First Amendment by exercising editorial control over the style and content of student speech in school-sponsored expressive activities so long as their actions are reasonably related to legitimate pedagogical concerns." In this particular instance, the principal completely removed two pages of the paper. It appears from the text that, rather than supporting your argument, the Hazelwood decision supports mine.

Elsewhere, the decision states, "The question whether the First Amendment requires a school to tolerate particular student speech - the question that we addressed in Tinker - is different from the question whether the First Amendment requires a school affirmatively [484 U.S. 260, 271] to promote particular student speech." Schools do not have to allow a school newspaper to print articles that they believe to be offensive or unnecessarily biased.
Debate Round No. 2
Interrobang

Con

In the instance you mentioned, about the teen pregnancy article, I would agree with you. As I stated before, if it threatens safety it should not be allowed. While that particular article did not threaten safety per se, it did compromise the pregnant student's identity and reputation on soemthign that should remain private. That was not a case in censorship over sole personal opinion- the removal proteceted something very important. It was not just an instance of "Well, I'm against (blank), so I'm removing it", which is what I'm against.

A school allowing an article to be published is not promoting it. Tinker says they must tolerate it, which is what they would do in allowing the publication.

I thank you for a good debate.
Flare_Corran

Pro

I agree with you that in normal student speech, they must tolerate all viewpoints (within reason). However, I disagree that a school promoted newspaper is normal student speech. In the quote I provided above, the Supreme Court said that there was a distinction. In this case, the school would not merely be tolerating the speech, but actively promoting it (by sponsoring the newspaper and granting it official status.)

The school must have the authority to supervise the paper. It is their right, after all, if they are supporting it. Without the ability to veto articles, the school cannot afford to allow a paper to be published. Even if the article does not directly threaten safety, it must not give any appearance of the school supporting a viewpoint not held by the officials. If the officials believe that it does, they would be within their rights to remove the article.

Thank you.
Debate Round No. 3
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Vote Placed by Interrobang 5 years ago
Interrobang
InterrobangFlare_CorranTied
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Vote Placed by RoyLatham 5 years ago
RoyLatham
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Vote Placed by sorc 5 years ago
sorc
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Vote Placed by trendem 5 years ago
trendem
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Vote Placed by rougeagent21 5 years ago
rougeagent21
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Vote Placed by Maikuru 5 years ago
Maikuru
InterrobangFlare_CorranTied
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