S T U D E N T E X P R E S S I O N

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William Allan Kritsonis, PhD
Educational Law Series - Student Freedom of Expression

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S T U D E N T E X P R E S S I O N

  1. 1. Student Expression William Allan Kritsonis, PhD
  2. 2. What is Student Expression? <ul><li>The 1st Amendment guarantees our right to free expression and free association, which means that the government does not have the right to forbid us from speaking and writing what we like. This includes students in public schools, students DO NOT give up their first amendment right at the school door. </li></ul>
  3. 3. What do the Courts Say? <ul><li>1969 Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District the Supreme court held that public school students have the right to express themselves orally, in writing, leaflets, buttons armbands and t-shirts . </li></ul>
  4. 4. So Can Students Say Anything they Want? <ul><li>No there are exceptions to the ruling and ways around full blown student expression </li></ul><ul><li>Students can express themselves as long as administrators feel that it does not “materially and substantially” disrupt classes . </li></ul>
  5. 5. Hazelwood School District v Kuhlmeier <ul><li>Public school administrators can censor student speech in official school publications or activities if the official think something said is being “harmful”or inappropriate”. </li></ul>
  6. 6. Common Issues in Student Expression <ul><li>School Newspapers </li></ul><ul><li>Dress Code </li></ul><ul><li>Library Books </li></ul><ul><li>Pledge of Allegiance </li></ul><ul><li>Student opinion of teachers </li></ul>
  7. 7. School Newspapers <ul><li>If it is a completely student-run paper that is handed out in school, the school may not censor what is said or stop you from handing it out as long as the paper is not “indecent” and it is not “materially and substantially” disruptive of school activities. </li></ul>
  8. 8. Remember!!! <ul><li>Topics can be deemed controversial but important to students such as sex education, condoms, drug, sexual orientation, etc. The courts says that is it is “inappropriate or harmful” it can be censored! </li></ul>
  9. 9. Dress Code <ul><li>Can be enforced as long as they are not discriminatory or unreasonable, almost no dress code cases are overturned . </li></ul>
  10. 10. Library Books <ul><li>1982 Island Trees v. Pico the Supreme Court rules that school boards can’t remove books from a school library because they don’t agree with the content. </li></ul>
  11. 11. Pledge Of Allegiance <ul><li>Student DO NOT HAVE to say the Pledge of Allegiance, however students must remain silent during the reciting of the pledge. </li></ul>
  12. 12. Student Teacher Opinion <ul><li>Students are welcome to have their own opinion of teachers however it can’t be communicated in a school sponsored publication or event, Printing something or saying something untrue can lead to libel! Be aware of out of school expression with website such as ratemyteacher.com </li></ul>
  13. 13. Laws to Know <ul><li>Remember as administrators the law! It is your guide in knowing if a student is protected or not. Now lets see what you would do in the following scenarios! </li></ul>
  14. 14. Can students wear clothes with profanity?
  15. 15. NO! <ul><li>No, public school officials can prohibit students from wearing shirts with profane messages. In its 1986 decision Bethel School Dist. No. 403 v. Fraser, the U.S. Supreme Court wrote: “Surely, it is a highly appropriate function of public school education to prohibit the use of vulgar and offensive terms in public discourse.” The Court explained that “schools must teach by example the shared values of a civilized social order.” </li></ul>
  16. 16. Can I wear purple hair to school?
  17. 17. Yes and No! <ul><li>Courts are much divided on this issue. Among the federal appeals courts, the 1st, 2nd, 4th, 7th and 8th circuits have seemed receptive to students’ claims of free-expression rights concerning their hair. But the 3rd, 5th, 6th, 9th and 10th circuits have seemed unreceptive. </li></ul><ul><li>Many cases involving student hair today deal not with length but color. For example, a high school student from Virginia sued his school district in federal court after school officials suspended him for having blue hair. A federal judge reinstated the student, finding a violation of his constitutional rights. </li></ul>
  18. 18. Can political messages be worn on clothing?
  19. 19. Yes! <ul><li>Usually they are protected in dress-code cases as long as they are not conveyed in a vulgar or lewd fashion. In Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School Dist. (1969), the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that public school students could wear black armbands to school to protest U.S. involvement in the Vietnam. The Court noted that the students were engaging in a form of symbolic speech that was “akin to pure speech.” In later decisions, courts have recognized that students have more protection when they engage in political expression </li></ul>
  20. 20. Bottom Line <ul><li>Know your rights as an administrator </li></ul><ul><li>Know your students rights </li></ul><ul><li>Know your State and Federal laws! </li></ul><ul><li>Know your district policies! </li></ul><ul><li>Do not act unless you Know!!! </li></ul>

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