Independent/Off-Campus Media

Public school students who produce truly independent publications or online media that have no formal affiliation with their school may have greater First Amendment protections than students working on school-sponsored media.

The First Amendment guarantees the right of public school students to distribute lawful material they have independently created on school grounds during (and/or just before or just after) the school day. School officials can establish reasonable guidelines or rules for such distribution, but they must allow it. 

Students who both create and distribute print publications entirely off campus have even greater legal protection.

One of the most hotly-contested legal issues currently before courts is how much authority, if any, school officials have to regulate or punish students for their off-campus, online publishing, including postings to private Web sites, e-mail, texting, blogs and social networking sites (e.g., Facebook, MySpace, etc.).

Guide to off-campus publications, websites

In 1995, Paul Kim, a senior at Newport High School, in Bellevue, Wash., lost the chance to compete for a National Merit scholarship when his principal rescinded the school's recommendation. Read more