Supporter wants federal press protections

MASSACHUSETTS -- Out of frustration with the slow progress supporters have made in getting states to pass anti-Hazelwood legislation, one adviser is working to pass a bill at the national level.

Harry Proudfoot, a newspaper adviser at Westport High School, said he believes passing one bill in Congress will be easier than passing 44 bills in the states. Six states -- Arkansas, California, Colorado, Iowa, Kansas and Massachusetts -- have already passed legislation protecting student expression in school publications.

"My logic is that it should be easier to convince a majority of 535 people that this is a good idea than it is to convince roughly 50 times that number if we go state by state," Proudfoot said. "I also see this as a problem the federal government -- the Supreme Court -- created."

In 1988, the Supreme Court ruled in Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier that high school administrators could censor a school-sponsored publication as long as the censorship is related to legitimate educational concerns.

Proudfoot believes a national campaign to pass anti-Hazelwood laws could re-energize efforts in the states. In the 12 years since the Hazelwood decision was issued, only five states have passed bills counteracting it. California's bill predates the 1988 ruling.

"We are putting the freedom of the press at risk in this country by raising a generation of journalists who believe the government has the right to censor publications," Proudfoot said.

reports, Spring 2000