Speak Up! - View Question #433
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Question: Would it be against the law for a student to print an article saying bad things about other students?
Answer: As a general rule, the free speech rights found in the First Amendment to the United States Constitution protect your rights to print opinions about other people. An opinion, or what you think about an issue, is protected even if it reflects badly on another person. However, to gain this protection your opinions must be based on true facts.
If you print something false about another person, you may be liable to them under the law of defamation. The First Amendment protections of free speech do not protect you from printing something about another that is untrue.
Also keep in mind that even if what you are printing is a truthful opinion, the Supreme Court of the United States has often held that schools have the power to keep you from using a school newspaper to distribute it. This is because, according to the Court, students have a lower level of protection of their rights when they are at school. The administrators of the school are responsible for the safety of their students and they are permitted greater control than in other situations. So if your school Principal felt that something you wanted to print might cause problems with other students, they would likely be able to prevent you from printing it.