A case brought by the editorial team of The Innovator, the student publication of Governors State University, Illinois, recently reached the US Court of Appeal for the Seventh Circuit.
The panel of three judges ruled that college chiefs cannot ask to review student-edited publications before they hit the shelves.
The team behind The Innovator was spurred into taking legal action after a school administrator stopped the magazine from being printed in 2000, because she had not first approved its content. As a result, The Innovator has not been published since.
“Treating these students like 15-year-old high school students and restricting their First Amendment rights by an unwise extension of the Hazelwood [ruling] would be an extreme step for us to take,” said the court, referring to a 1988 ruling to give high school officials powers to monitor pupils’ copy.
Although the ruling only applies to three states, Mark Goodman, executive director of the Student Press Law Centre, believes it could have wider implications.
“We hope this ruling will dissuade, once and for all, college officials who are inclined to censor from engaging in that unconstitutional behaviour,” he said.