The State Response to Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier

74 Pages Posted: 22 May 2012 Last revised: 19 Jan 2014

Date Written: August 15, 2013


Student journalism was dealt a significant blow in 1988, when Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier gave school officials license to censor any student speech inconsistent with a school’s “pedagogical concerns.” Scholars and advocates have long argued that Hazelwood has allowed widespread censorship of stories criticizing school officials and articles concerning controversial topics like sex, drinking, and drug-use. In the aftermath of Hazelwood, nine states have adopted so-called “anti-Hazelwood” statutes and regulations that place 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 these measures affect student-newspaper content and in fact work to secure a vibrant and free student press. This Article presents an original study that quantifies the effectiveness of anti-Hazelwood measures by comparing the content of student-newspaper editorials in states with anti-Hazelwood protections to those without. The resulting data show that anti-Hazelwood statutes have an effect on student journalism: they result in students publishing more editorial content and a greater proportion of editorial content that criticizes school officials or tackles controversial subjects.

Keywords: high school journalism, scholastic journalism, student journalism, student newspaper, Tinker, Hazelwood, Morse v. Frederick, Bethel v. Fraser, student speech, anti-Hazelwood, student press

JEL Classification: K00, K10

Suggested Citation

Buller, Tyler J., The State Response to Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier (August 15, 2013). 66 Maine L. Rev. 89, Available at SSRN: or

Tyler J. Buller (Contact Author)

Iowa Department of Justice ( email )

United States

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