How do I know if my school's newspaper is a limited public forum?
Questions to ask to determine if your school newspaper is a limited public forum
- Do students produce the paper as part of the school curriculum?
- Do students receive credits/grades for writing for the newspaper or are their grades based on other activities?
- Does the school help in funding the newspaper, or do students raise money for it?
- Does a faculty member oversee the production of the newspaper?
- Did the school break any of its usual policies by publishing the paper?
- How much control does the school administration and/or faculty advisor have in choosing what is written in the school newspaper?
- The Board of Education probably has a written policy about student press—does their policy raise any issues?
- Does the school’s written policy about the newspaper define the newspaper as a limited public forum or non-public forum?
- Do school officials usually regulate the newspaper? If so, how?
The more factors on the list that identify the school newspaper as a limited public forum, the less likely it is that a principal can censor a story critical of the school. For example, if (1) the school administration doesn’t usually review student articles before being published, (2) the faculty advisor gives advice, but usually takes a backseat in deciding what stories get published, and/or (3) the students sell ads to pay for the newspaper, the newspaper is probably a limited-public forum where student speech rights are more protected. Remember, each case is different! There’s no magic number of factors that make your school a limited-public forum, you have to consider everything together!
Have questions about free speech rights?
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