Freedom of Speech in Public Schools

There are many examples of cases that involve students at public schools who believed that their freedom of speech rights were violated when they were suspended for wearing certain clothes, symbols, or saying inappropriate things over social media. The greatest example is the Supreme Court case of Tinder vs. Des Moines that took place in Iowa in 1969. Various students planned a silent protest against the Vietnam War by wearing black armbands to school. The principal found out and warned the students that if they went through with the protest they would be suspended. The students ignored the warning and were suspended. The parents of the students sued and the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the students and their rights to freedom of speech.

Some people believe that students and employees at public places should be punished for wearing offensive clothing or making statements that school officials consider slander or fighting words. This would mean that school officials set boundaries and decide when the line is crossed. For example, if a student wears an item of clothing with the Confederate flag on it, then school officials have the right to tell the student to change or suspend the student if the student does not comply. School officials want to create an environment that is a safe place where students do not feel threatened. A student wearing a Confederate flag is very offensive to some people. However, many other people agree with the ruling of Tinder vs. Des Moines that stated, “Students don’t shed their constitutional rights at the schoolhouse gates.” People on this side of the argument believe that schools should not be allowed to limit a student’s freedom of speech because that is unconstitutional. Students have freedom of speech no matter where they are in public.

There are some situations where freedom of speech is already limited. For example, if a person walked into a crowded building and yelled, “FIRE!” that person could be charged because that person’s speech caused panic and posed a clear and present danger to others. Also in schools, a student could be suspended or  expelled for pulling the fire alarm when there is no fire or threat of a fire.

Currently, school officials have the power to limit student’s actions when it comes to dress codes, social media, school newspapers and many other things. I agree with this because the school officials have the responsibility to make sure that all students feel respected and safe at school.  Students who wear vulgar-language clothing, Confederate flags, Nazi swastikas, or communicating offensive words about teachers or students over social media can be very offensive towards others in the school. It could make students feel like their opinions do not matter or that everyone hates them.  I believe that each school official should have the right to prohibit clothing or words that they deem offensive and that students should be required to respect those rules so that other students and teachers at their school feel comfortable and safe.



One thought on “Freedom of Speech in Public Schools”

  1. Sources:

    Tinker v. Des Moines Podcast
    “Tinker V. Des Moines Podcast”. United States Courts. N. p., 2017. Web. 17 Feb. 2017.

    At least 20 Ore. students suspended because of tweet
    “At Least 20 Ore. Students Suspended Because Of Tweet”. USA TODAY. N. p., 2017. Web. 17 Feb. 2017.

    Volokh, E. and Volokh, E.
    Volokh, Eugene and Eugene Volokh. “Opinion | The Confederate Flag, The First Amendment And Public Schools”. Washington Post. N. p., 2017. Web. 17 Feb. 2017.
    Freedom of Expression in Schools –
    ” Freedom Of Expression In Schools – Lawyers.Com “. N. p., 2017. Web. 17 Feb. 2017.


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