HOT TOPICS–FREE SPEECH IN SCHOOLS|
Patrick Henry, Debates in the Several States Conventions on the
Adoption of the Federal Constitution (Elliot's Debates)
The Constitution faced a difficult ratification process because it contained no Bill of Rights. In fact, Patrick Henry opposed Virginia's ratification of the United States Constitution in 1788 for that reason and warned that a Bill of Rights was needed to restrain "all the terrors of paramount federal authority."
So, what does this mean? Does the Bill of Rights only protect us from the federal government? What if the state or local government wanted to prohibit criticism of state legislators or city councilmen? Is this constitutional?
Initially, the Bill of Rights only restricted the federal government. However, the courts now interpret the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, which was ratified on July 9, 1868, to similarly restrict state and local governments from curtailing many of the freedoms contained in the Bill of Rights. So, while the Constitution limits a public school administrator from infringing a public school student's rights, the Constitution does not impose this same restriction on a private school administrator.