The Rehnquist Court (1986–2005)

First Amendment

How did the Rehnquist Court deal with the First Amendment rights of minor students?

The Rehnquist Court issued one major decision, Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier (1988), that restricted the First Amendment rights of secondary school students. The decision gives school officials broad leeway in restricting school-sponsored student speech. Under the so-called Hazelwood standard, school officials can restrict any student speech that is school-sponsored if they have a reasonable educational justification for their actions. The decision arose after a high school principal in Missouri objected to two articles produced by a high school newspaper that dealt with teen pregnancy and the impact of divorce upon teens. The principal ordered the stories deleted from the school newspaper, which was produced as part of a journalism class. In response to the decision, several states passed their own laws, called anti-Hazelwood laws, that provide greater protection to student journalists. Nevertheless, Hazelwood remains the law of the land for the vast majority of high school students.

Members of the Ku Klux Klan burn crosses in Georgia. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Virginia v. Black (2003) that a Virginia statute that made it unlawful for crosses to be burned with the intent of intimidating a person or group did not violate the First Amendment. Getty Images.

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