Desilets v. Clearview Regional Board of Education

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Desilets v. Clearview Regional Board of Education
Seal of New Jersey.svg
Court New Jersey Supreme Court
Decided September 22, 1994
Citation(s) 137 N.J. 585, 647 A.2d. 150 (1994)
Case opinions
Majority: Per curiam
Concurrence/Dissent: Pollock, joined by Wilentz
Court membership
Judge(s) sitting Chief Justice Robert Wilentz
Justices Clifford, Garibaldi, Handler, O'Hern, Pollock, and Stein

Desilets v. Clearview Regional Board of Education, 137 N.J. 585 (1994) was a New Jersey Supreme Court decision that held that public school curricular student newspapers that have not been established as forums for student expression are subject to a lower level of First Amendment protection than independent student expression or newspapers established (by policy or practice) as forums for student expression.


The First Amendment Freedom of Speech clause was not violated by the school district because the First Amendment protection for student expression described in Tinker v. Des Moines Community Independent School District, 393 U.S. 503 (1969) does not compel a public school to affirmatively sponsor speech that conflicts with its educational goals. The school-funded newspaper at issue was also not considered to be a public forum under the totality of circumstances present in the case, and therefore, its editors were entitled to a lower level of First Amendment protection than is applicable to independent student newspapers or those newspapers that have, by policy or practice, opened their pages to student opinion.


Under the First Amendment, school officials can censor curricular, non-forum student newspapers when they can justify their decision with a legitimate pedagogical (i.e., educational) justification. Subsequent decisions, such as the decision in Dean v. Utica Community Schools, 345 F.Supp.2d 799 (E.D. Mich. 2004), have made clear that this is not carte blanche for school officials to censor articles wantonly or based on personal opinion.

Note also that some states have passed laws guaranteeing that curricular, non-forum newspapers (those at issue in Hazelwood) have greater rights than the First Amendment requires.

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