In response to a letter from the New York Civil Liberties Union, the administration of Stuyvesant High School in Manhattan has affirmed the right of students to determine the content of a student-run newsletter.

A Stuyvesant High student, Alfred Tsai, contacted the NYCLU with concerns that the school’s administration had spiked an article he wrote for In Other Words’, a student publication, on relations between China and Taiwan. Tsai said the administration refused to publish his article claiming it would “create a detriment to the Stuyvesant community” and “arouse uneasy feelings among people from Taiwan and Communist China.”

In a letter to Principal Stanley Teitel, the NYCLU explained that the First Amendment protects student speech in student-run newspapers that are extracurricular voluntary activities. This is to ensure they reflect the policy and judgment of the student editors – not those of the school.

After receiving the NYCLU’s letter, Teitel met with the four student editors of the newsletter. According to Teitel, none of the student editors believed that the article in question should be published because it failed to meet the parameters set forth for articles in the section. The student editors did not elaborate on the newsletters’ parameters when pressed by Tsai. Teitel saw no reason to override the student editors’ judgment by requiring them to publish the student’s article.

Tsai’s article was an informational narration on Taiwan’s geography, history, culture and cuisine. Originally, an editor had raised concern over two sentences in that article that they feared would offend some readers. The two sentences at issue stated:

In 1949, the Chinese Communist took over the Chinese mainland, and a million soldiers and citizens retreated to Taiwan. The two sides of the Taiwan Strait have since been separated for half a century.

Tsai then offered to add a third sentence to follow the sentences in question:

The political status of Taiwan is a sensitive and controversial issue.

In a letter to the NYCLU, the New York City Department of Education confirmed that the school administration would not intervene in the student–led editorial process. The DOE concluded that the decision to not include Tsai’s article in the publication was based solely on the judgment of the student editors, and not school officials.