Students Shoud Not Have The Tight To Free Speech

2827 words - 11 pages

According to the First Amendment Center, located at Vanderbilt University and at Washington, D.C.’s Newseum, there are twelve categories of speech that are not protected by First Amendment rights. These are: “obscenity, fighting words, defamation (libel, slander), child pornography, perjury, blackmail, incitement to imminent lawless action, true threats, solicitations to commit crimes, and plagiarism of copyrighted material” (para. 2). The center also adds that “some experts also would add treason, if committed verbally” (para. 2). Nowhere in this list is included “things we don’t like.” Public schools, including public colleges and universities, by law, have to extend first amendment rights to their students, since they are an extension of the government.
This was not always the case. When the First Amendment was adopted, it only applied to Congress and the Federal Government and not the states (First Amendment Center, n.d.). It was not until the 1925 Supreme Court Case of Gitlow v. People, where it was determined that the First Amendment “rights” were to be extended to the individual states, and by extension, the public schools, via the Fourteenth Amendment and its equal protection clause (1925). That did not automatically grant students first amendment rights. It took almost twenty more years until the Supreme Court specifically extended first amendment protection to students in the public school systems. In 1943, the case of West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette (319 U.S. 624, 1943), involved students who were Jehovah’s Witnesses, who refused to participate in the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag, citing religious reasons. The school disciplined the students and their parents, but the students sued on the grounds that their First Amendment rights were violated. The Court ruled in favor of the students, citing the fact that the Fourteenth Amendment now applied to the states and all of its entities…Boards of Education included (1943). Now schools had a bit less latitude to discipline students for speech or actions that the school found objectionable.


The landmark case, Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District (393 U.S. 503 1969), involved three students wearing black armbands to their public schools in protest of the conflict in Vietnam. School officials, learning of the plan, quickly implemented a policy that would prohibit such a display. The students sued, and lost, in federal court. Eventually, the case was tried in the Supreme Court, where the Court ruled in favor of the students, overturning the previous verdict. The Court’s decision, read by Justice Abe Fortas, said that “it can hardly be argued that either students or teachers shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech and expression at the schoolhouse gate” (at 506). By a 7-2 vote, the Court decided that school officials cannot censor or restrict student speech, unless school officials feel that the speech will...

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