Featured School Papers:

Know Your J-Jargon

makeup editor: See design editor.

Learn more J-Jargon »

Lesson Plans

Angela Bochert
Newspaper Adviser
Full-bio »

Lesson Plans

Journalism Law Lesson: Tinker vs. Hazelwood

Journalism Law Lesson: Tinker vs. Hazelwood

Angela Bochert of GlenOak High School.

Angela Bochert
GlenOak High School
Canton, Ohio

Title: Journalism Law Lesson: Tinker vs. Hazelwood

Time: This plan is designed for a 90 minute Journalism Iclass.

Goals: Throughout lesson students are able to apply what Tinker and Hazelwood is through a series of group activities and an essay quiz to be given the following class.


Procedure One:

  • Come into class with some clothing. Make sure clothing stands for something. Examples: Logos for sports teams, shirts advertising companies, ask students if there is anything wrong with wearing these to school.
    • What does each of these things symbolize?
    • Why do you wear things like these to school?
  • Then pull out a black arm band. Ask them what this symbolizes.
    • Is anything wrong with wearing this to school?
  • Give a scenario: Would this be wrong to wear to school if you were silently protesting the war in Iraq. Is there anything wrong with that? Why or why not?
    • Why could someone say this was wrong? Why could someone say it was right?
    • Is there a law that protects you from doing what you want in this country?
    • If so what is it? (Hopefully someone will remember it) Pass it out the First Amendment.
  • Ask students who this pertains to
    • Does it pertain to you as high school students?
    • Ask students if they have the same rights in school that they do outside? Yes or no?
    • Ask students why.

Procedure Two:

  • Begin into the Tinker story why you have liberties at the school house door.
    • Three students in Des Moines, Iowa decided to protest the Vietnam War in 1965 by wearing black armbands to school. The school learned of their plans and made a rule prohibiting black arm bands. They were told to take them off when they refused, they were suspended.
    • Students and their parents sued the school district. Four years later, in 1969, in a landmark decision the court ruled that students werepermitted to their First Amendment rights as long as they did not cause a substantional disruption of or material interference with school activities. Administrator must demonstrate facts in order for a legal censorship to hold up in court. Thiscase paved the way for uncensored school newspapers until 1985.
    • Tinker says that a newspaper may not be censored if the story or the research for the story is not causing a disruption to the school

Procedure Three:

  • Break students up into groups.
  • Hand students scenarios of real court cases taken from "Law of the Student Press." Group must determine which was determined as a censorship and which case wasn’t. Students must read their scenario to the class and give their opinion and why.

Procedure Four:

  • Bring students back into class.
  • Have students read an article that was censored from the Hazelwood case.
  • Read the scenario from Hazelwood and ask the class if they believe this should be censored.
    • Why or why not?
    • Is there anything wrong with these articles that you feel could cause a disruption?

Procedure Five: The Hazelwood Case

  • In 1983 students at Hazelwood East High School in St. Louis were shocked when they received their paper back and found two stories missing. One had been about teenage pregnancies and had featured anonymous students in the high school. The other had been about divorces and how it affects teenagers. The past adviser (who had just left the district) had started a tradition of giving the principal the newspaper as a common courtesy before it went to press. The principal had been concerned about the articles — thinking they were too revealing and did not fully cover the stories. (Did not interview all needed sources etc.) He cut the stories without telling the students or the new adviser. His first claims were that the stories were “too sensitive” and that the topic of divorce was inappropriate for high school students. In court he claimed that the girls in the pregnancy story were easily identifiable, that students were sexually active, and that the parents did not respond. In the divorce story he did not like the reference that the father that was gone all the time.
  • The newspaper decided to sue based on Tinker. The case made it to the Supreme Court. In a defeat to student journalists, the court sided with the school and drew up new rules for censorship from the school.
  • The court decided that if the following were true…
    • The newspaper must be an open forum of public expression. (Newspapers must have an editorial policy proclaiming they are an open forum.
    • Public open forum means that any student may write a letter and have it published. Any student or teacher may request to have a guest column.)
    • Students must have the final say in content about the paper.
    • Papers should not be given to administration before going to print. (This is how the students in Hazelwood got in trouble.)
  • … then Tinker applies: The school may only censor when they feel that it will disturb the learning process.) If there is a written school policy then the newspaper cannot be under prior review by the school!
  • If paper does not proclaim itself an open forum, then it is subject to prior review.
  • Schools must still justify why they censored material and why it is not educationally fit. Papers must be careful to be grammatically correct, research correct sources, not use vulgar words, have banlanced reporting, etc…

Procedure Six:

  • Review with students over how to tell the difference between what law a newspaper falls under.


The following class, students to be able to come in and define what Tinker is and what Hazelwood in a short essay quiz.

Materials needed:

Archived Lesson Plans »