Twitter Facebook Google Plus Pinterest Storify
Society of Professional Journalists
Improving and protecting journalism since 1909

Advertise with SPJ
Advertise with SPJ

News and More
Click to Expand Instantly

SPJ News
Events and Deadlines
SPJ Blogs
Quill Online
Journalist's Toolbox

Stay in Touch
Twitter Storify Facebook Google Plus
RSS Pinterest Pinterest Flickr

More SPJ News
Press Notes
SPJ Blogs
SPJ Leads
The EIJ News
Press Notes
SPJ News
Open Doors
Geneva Conventions
Annual FOI Reports

Home > SPJ News > Court OKís Censorship of College Journalists

SPJ News
Latest SPJ News | RSS

Court OKís Censorship of College Journalists



September 9, 1999

To: Project Sunshine Chairs
From: Ian Marquand, SPJ FOI Chairman

The 6th Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that college journalists may be restrained from publishing material that administrators dislike. The ruling came in a case brought by former editors of the Kentucky State University yearbook, "The Thorobred."

The student editors, Capri Coffer and Charles Kincaid, sued after KSUís vice-president for student affairs confiscated some 2,000 copies of the 1992-94 edition of the yearbook.

The administrator, Betty Gibson, did not approve of the content and style of the yearbook, including the fact that the cover did not include the school colors of green and gold. The students claimed the confiscation was part of a power struggle over KSUís student journalism program.

In 1997, a federal district court judge dismissed the suit, ruling that yearbooks are not a public forum deserving First Amendment protection. That decision essentially extended the U.S. Supreme Courtís 1988 "Hazelwood" decision, which allowed censorship of high school journalists, to colleges.

SPJ filed a brief before the 6th Circuit Court supporting the studentsí case, as did the American Civil Liberties Union and the Student Press Law Center.

On Sept. 8, a three-judge panel of the 6th Circuit Court ruled two-to-one in favor of the university. The circuit courtís decision directly affects only Kentucky, Tennessee, Ohio and Michigan. The studentsí attorney told the Lexington, Ky., Herald Leader that Kincaid and Coffer will appeal the appellate panel's decision to the full court and, if necessary, to the U.S. Supreme Court.

In a story published Sept. 9, the Herald Leader quoted Mike Hiestand, staff attorney for the Student Press Law Center as saying, "Colleges and universities are all about free speech. We should have the First Amendment up on a pedestal on every college campus. But instead with this decision, we're going in the other direction."

(Contributors to this story included John Cheves, staff writer for the Lexington Herald Leader, and Rachel DuFault, SPJís Pulliam-Kilgore intern, who wrote about the KSU case for the September Quill.)

Copyright © 1996-2015 Society of Professional Journalists. All Rights Reserved. Legal

Society of Professional Journalists
Eugene S. Pulliam National Journalism Center
3909 N. Meridian St.
Indianapolis, IN 46208
317/927-8000 | Fax: 317/920-4789

Contact SPJ Headquarters
Employment Opportunities
Advertise with SPJ