Tag Archives: free speech

Speech Codes: Are They a Scourge or a Savior to Free Speech?

Many people know the First Amendment: the right to expression, the right to peacefully assemble, freedom of the press, the right to petition the government, etcetera. However, not many people know where the boundaries of these rights lie. People push these boundaries all the time and right now college campuses are but one example. Administrators at colleges are attempting to enforce speech codes. Yet, does enforcing speech codes violate the right to free expression described in the First Amendment? How far can speech codes go before the contradict the rights to free expression and peaceful protesting described in the First Amendment?

There are many ways speech codes could be enforced. But depending on how they are applied, they could break the First Amendment. A few forms of expression, specifically in regards to free speech, that are not protected by the First Amendment are slander or libel, fighting words, and obscenity. This means that someone can not go in front of a crowd and defame, insult, threaten, or say anything that may be considered hate speech to someone without consequences. One example of hate speech can be seen in a video of Milo Yiannopoulous at UW Milwaukee. In this video, he verbally attacked and degraded a transgender student. They still were spoken with no point other than to make fun of a subject and way of life that Yiannopoulous did not agree with. Another example of hate speech and fighting words is threats. As stated by Ben Shapiro, some people “greeted the birth of [his] second child by calling for [him, his] wife, and two children to be thrown into a gas chamber”. There was no purpose to this statement other than to express a disagreement with his religion. Under the First Amendment, hate speech is not something you can say without consequences. Speech Codes cannot be used to prevent speakers with controversial opinions from speaking. They cannot prevent people from peacefully disagreeing and debating about topics. However, speech codes can apply consequences if that speech becomes hateful or slanderous since that speech would no longer be protected under the First Amendment.

Some Speech Codes are also attempting to limit the student’s right to peacefully protest a speaker. The First Amendment specifically says “Congress shall make no law… abridging the freedom of speech, or the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble”. To restrict the right to peacefully assemble is a direct violation of the First Amendment. Yet, as seen on the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education website, also known as FIRE, some college campuses are restricting the student’s rights to peacefully assemble and protest on the grounds that they are disrupting the speaker’s right to freedom of speech. Furthermore, the Wisconsin Campus Free Speech Act states that “protests and demonstrations that interfere with the expressive rights of others are subject to sanction”. There must be a line drawn as to what qualifies as disruptive and interfering demonstrations. The line is whether or not there is any form of violence or hate speech. If a protester simply said the speaker was wrong, held signs, and argued about right versus wrong, nothing can be done about it because they are protesting peacefully, as the First Amendment says they can. However, if a protestor started doing damage or cursing out the speaker, then they would have to face consequences. Recently at UC Berkeley, protesters became very violent at a speech by Yiannopoulous and had to be escorted off the premises. UC Berkeley encompasses what a protest that is not protected by the First Amendment is, and what Speech Codes can restrict.

In the end, Speech codes can be useful to make speeches more peaceful and clearly define punishments for breaking that peace, however, they must still subject to the First Amendment.

Sources:

EBSCO: The New Battle Over Campus Free Speech

Milo Yiannopoulos verbally attacks a transgender student (1:30-3:05)

The Atlantic: The Glaring Evidence That Free Speech Is Threatened on Campus

Wisconsin Campus Free Speech Act

A few examples of Hate Speech against Ben Shapiro

Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE)

UC Berkeley

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Schools Teaching but Not Upholding First Amendment Rights

Topic: School Censorship

Essential Question: Does schools regulating and censoring students’ speech violate the freedom of speech limits to the First Amendment?

Under the First Amendment the government must respect citizens’ right to express themselves; however, under the school speech doctrine, student’s constitutional right to freedom of speech can be suppressed by school authorities. The school’s ability to put limitations on students’ freedom of speech has been challenged countlessly and from many different aspects on the issue such as illegal drug promotion, political speech, hate speech, and religious speech.   The countless cases of discontent with the suppression is due to the court’s inadequate guidelines determining whether schools’ policies violate the constitution.  Due to this, the majority of schools lack knowledge about their limitations to restrict  students’ freedom of speech and rather focus on implementing restrictions to maintain order, avoid controversy, and minimize criticism from the community over promoting students’ rights while creating regulations.  This leads to the primary question.  Should schools value avoiding controversy and disruption over promoting students to practice their constitutional right?

In the  Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier court case, Kuhlmeier argued that the school violated the First Amendment by not publishing an article discussing teen pregnancy.  Kuhlmeier’s argument did not hold up in court. The Supreme Court ruled that the First Amendment rights of students in schools are not coextensive with the rights of adults outside of public schools and ultimately “educators do not offend the First Amendment by exercising editorial control over the style and content of student speech in school-sponsored expressive activities, so long as their actions are reasonably related to legitimate pedagogical concerns.”  Since the article was written in a journalism class, apart of the school’s curriculum, the principal was able to deny publication with the reasoning that the pregnant students might have been able to be identified and would have later caused controversy and harm to those students.  The article also discussed sexual activities and birth control, which the principle deemed as inappropriate for the younger kids who attended that school.  Ultimately, by restricting students’ freedom of speech, in this case, allowed the community to avoid controversy and protect the well being and safety of other students at school.

On the other hand, the court case of Zachary Guiles rejected the school’s authorities to restrict Zachary’s First Amendment right to express his political views on a shirt despite the presence of alcohol and illegal drugs on his shirt.  Since the shirt was not encouraging the use of illegal drugs nor alcohol, which is prohibited in schools, but rather using them to convey, in Zachary’s opinion, the inadequacy and stupidity of the president, in the end, the school could not restrict Zachary from wearing the shirt at school because schools do not hold the right to censor political views of students if there is no disruption in the education process.  Since Zachary had wore this shirt many times before without any disruption and the only concern regarding the shirt were the drugs portrayed, the court could not ban his shirt from schools.  This ruling allowed for students to be able to practice their First Amendment right by promoting them to express their views politically.

Ultimately, I believe that schools should minimize their authority to restrict student’s First Amendment rights to better prepare them for the real world.  Schools should only use their power to avoid evident disruption in the classroom and harm such as bullying, encouraging of unsafe practices, and abusive speech.  Schools should encourage a safe environment where students are able to express their views regardless of the popular belief and use it to promote a better society in and out of the classroom by provoking thoughtful and open-minded conversations between students.

 

If You Don’t Like It, Don’t Read It

 

Over the last 15 years, social media has become apart of our everyday lives; a place where everyone and anyone can post pictures, videos, opinions, and ideas.  Social media is the place where you and I post things for others to see, and a way we communicate with people we don’t get to see everyday. We post our thoughts and opinions for the world to see, but is there such thing as going too far? Well apparently Twitter thinks so. Twitter, along with other massive social media websites has been banning and deleting people’s accounts because their opinions are seen as offensive to others. Owen S.Good claims, “You don’t have a right to do anything on Twitter. You have privileges there, granted by the people who created and operate the service. The assumption that Twitter should tolerate, enable or defer in its policies to those who claim their conduct is political or protected expression is absurd”. On the other hand, many people say that social media banning is contradicting our rights. The First Amendment states that we the people are granted freedom of expression, in other words, the right to express our ideas, thoughts, opinions, virtually anything we want!

I personally find it unbelievable that people are being blocked on social media for what they say. I understand if it is physically causing problems, and/or causing someone to get hurt, but just for someone expressing their opinions is absurd. However I don’t think they should be able to ban anyone. First off, you decide to follow that person. If they post something you don’t like, unfollow them. A solution is simply don’t read it, but if you choose to read something don’t get butthurt if it offends you. It’s their right to post their opinions and views. You also have the right to decide whether to read it or not. If it’s offensive, DON’T READ IT!  Also, I believe if social media is going to ban someone for posting something offensive, they need to ban everyone who has done something similar. For example, Donald Trump needs to be banned because he has singled out multiple people on social media, and it is offensive. I personally don’t follow him and don’t care, but if they are going to treat everyone equally why does he get away with it?