Pa. Scuttles Student Press Restrictions

By: Wayne Robins

High-school confidential: Student newspapers have rights, too.

After an intense lobbying campaign by some educators — as well as the editorial boards and other journalists at newspapers throughout Pennsylvania — the state’s board of education has scuttled a proposal that would have greatly restricted freedom of expression in high-school publications.

As E&P‘s Nat Hentoff noted in a March 4 column, a state board of education committee had recommended rescinding language in the present code, that “school officials may not censor or restrict material simply because it is critical of the school administration.” The proposed change also would have prohibited “vulgar, lewd, obscene, or plainly offensive” material — language most First Amendment proponents would find dangerously vague.

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette education writer Jane Elizabeth, who has been all over this story from the get-go, reported May 14 that committee members were surprised by the criticism. “We had no idea that people thought we were infringing on students’ freedom of expression,” she quoted the chairwoman of the committee as saying.

As they say in high school: Well, duh!

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