Issue 81, Spring 2001

A welcome decision from the federal Appeals Court for the Sixth Circuit in Kincaid v. Gibson restored First Amendment rights to Kentucky State University and other college students. The University violated the First Amendment when they confiscated the student yearbook, The Thorobred, for content and quality, said the court. The 10-3 ruling by a panel of judges, overturns an earlier decision by a divided 3-judge panel which mistakenly applied to the University the Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier standard which grants broad censorship powers to high school administrators. The Student Press Law Center, which filed an amicus brief with other journalism and civil liberties groups, hailed the landmark decision for free expression rights of college students (Censorship News 75).

Congress has passed legislation to restrict access to computers in public libraries and schools that receive e-rate funds from the government. To qualify for funds the libraries and schools must install software that filters out visual images that are child pornography, obscenity, or “harmful to minors,” even though no such software exists. The American Library Association, the ACLU and others will challenge the new law in the courts.

The Supreme Court has agreed to hear arguments in the Child Pornography Protection Act of 1996 that bans sexual depictions of anyone who “appears to be” younger than 18. Three Circuit Courts (1st, 4th, and 11th) have upheld the statute while the ninth has ruled it “unconstitutionally vague and overbroad.”