Hot Topics - Free Speech In Schools


What do you think?
Here are some questions to consider. Share your thoughts and read what others think about this on the Constitutional Law Message Board

  1. The Supreme Court stated that there were no facts which might reasonably have led school authorities to forecast substantial disruption of or material interference with school activities.

    However, the school authorities offered these reasons for justifying the armband prohibition.

    • "A former student of one of our high schools was killed in Viet Nam. Some of his friends are still in school and it was felt that if any kind of a demonstration existed, it might evolve into something which would be difficult to control."

    • "Students at one of the high schools were heard to say they would wear arm bands of other colors if the black bands prevailed."

    • "[T]he schools are no place for demonstrations," and if the students "didn't like the way our elected officials were handling things, it should be handled with the ballot box and not in the halls of our public schools."

    What about the reasons offered by the school authorities? Are they valid? Do you agree or disagree with the Supreme Court's decision?

  2. In a concurring decision, Justice Stewart wrote, "[a]lthough I agree with much of what is said in the Court's opinion, and with its judgment in this case, I cannot share the Court's uncritical assumption that, school discipline aside, the First Amendment rights of children are co-extensive with those of adults." "[A] State may permissibly determine that, at least in some precisely delineated areas, a child - like someone in a captive audience - is not possessed of that full capacity for individual choice which is the presupposition of First Amendment guarantees."

    Should a person's First Amendment rights vary depending on their capacity for individual choice? Should children receive lesser First Amendment protection than adults?

  3. In a dissenting opinion, Justice Black stated that public school students are neither sent to the schools at public expense to broadcast political or any other views nor to educate and inform the public. "The original idea of schools . . . was that children had not yet reached the point of experience and wisdom which enabled them to teach all of their elders."

    Does Justice Black raise a valid point? What limits, if any, should be placed upon a student's right to broadcast his or her political views.

  4. Justice Black also noted that "[u]ncontrolled and uncontrollable liberty is an enemy to domestic peace. We cannot close our eyes to the fact that some of the country's greatest problems are crimes committed by the youth, too many of school age. School discipline, like parental discipline, is an integral and important part of training our children to be good citizens - to be better citizens."

    Should the courts always defer to the school authorities on issues of school discipline? Is school discipline a sufficient reason to justify limiting a student's First Amendment rights?

    index back