The Seattle Times' Opinion on "Public Forum" Student Papers


"But we say again it is a risky thing to give legal control of a high-school newspaper to students."

Seattle Times Editorial

Is The Squall a limited public forum? Not yet.

Saying it is doesn't make it so. The Squall is a school newspaper, not a limited public forum and subject to the guidelines set forth in Hazelwood.

The editorial page of The Squall states that the editors reserve the right to edit submissions for content. That makes the paper a non-public forum and requires the paper to abide by the Hazelwood standards: the material must be appropriate for the entire student body.
  1. For The Squall to be a limited public forum, the school must clearly hand over its right to edit for content to the students. That has not been done.
  2. Although the journalism teacher and principal claim to have given up these rights (in personal statements and by practice), the board of education has retained these rights (as stated in their bylaws). 
  3. A limited public forum may not discriminate as to subject matter including "promotion of drugs or alcohol." Unless the bylaws are rewitten (Heaven forbid), the school board may control inappropriate content or prohibit certain subjects such as the promotion of drugs or alcohol (just one of several restricted subjects from the bylaws).
  4. The paper can't have it both ways. Either they are a limited public forum or they are editing for content. Currently they are editing for content.