Judge allows students' free speech case to continue after yearbook confiscation

KENTUCKY — A federal district court judge partially upheld and partially dismissed two Kentucky State University students’ claims that school administrators had unlawfully kept their yearbooks from them.

Charles Kincaid, a student at the school, and Capri Coffer, former student editor of the school’s yearbook, The Thorobred, claimed their right to produce and receive a copy of the yearbook was violated by the school.

Kincaid and Coffer claimed that withholding distribution of the yearbooks violated their free speech rights and the school’s contractual obligation to distribute them.

Judge Joseph M. Hood allowed the case to continue in June after review of the alleged violation of First Amendment freedom of speech rights and breach of contract.

The students claimed they had a contractual right to the yearbook because they paid a mandatory student activity fee that is used to partially fund the yearbook and is supposed to provide each student with a copy. Fees are paid by all enrolled students at the school.

The court dismissed the students’ claims for damages against the school administrators in their official capacities as well as freedom of association and due process claims.

The students’ request for a class action, which would have allowed them to sue on behalf of all students, was also denied.

The situation emerged after school administrators reviewed the content of the school’s yearbook and decided to halt distribution. The reasoning behind this decision was the book’s “dissatisfactory” presentation, according to court documents. No court date has been set in the case.

Fall 1996, reports