First Amendment, free speech, Constitutional Law


In Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier, the Supreme Court evaluated the administrative control of a high school newspaper and held that public school officials could control speech in school-sponsored activities if they did so for legitimate pedagogical reasons. While the Court reserved the question of whether this standard should be applicable at the university level, various federal circuit courts have since applied this speech-restrictive standard to student speech at colleges and universities. In light of these circuit court opinions, there has been considerable debate about whether and to what extent the Hazelwood framework should apply to college and university students. This Note argues that, while the Supreme Court's decision in the college context have been protective of students' free speech rights, there are similarities between the Hazelwood opinion and the Court's recent university speech decisions that have increasingly recognized the power of university officials to regulate student expression. Part I of this Note examines the Supreme Court's line of college student speech cases and its decision in Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier. Part II explores several important circuit court decisions that have applied Hazelwood to cases involving university student speech. Part III evaluates scholarly reaction to these circuit decisions, including the claim that the application of Hazelwood to the university context departs from well-established precedent granting college students broad free speech rights. Part IV argues that the application of Hazelwood to college student speech is actually supported by recent Supreme Court decisions and that there is good reason to believe other courts considering the issue will also apply Hazelwood's principles. This note concludes that the federal courts may not be the best place for student free speech proponents to look if they wish to uphold and expand student speech rights, and recommends that they consider looking elsewhere for relief.



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