Tag Archives: Freedom of Speech

Universities Limit the Right to Freedom of Expression

The first amendment is one of the most important and debated facets of our democracy.  It allows us to express our thoughts and feelings in different forms including the right to freedom of  expression, speech, assembly, and petition.  Despite that all of these are protected under the law there a lot of grey areas that create controversy.  Recently there has been debate over whether or not universities should be allow to limit students’ rights to free speech.  Many students feel like their rights are being stripped away from them in a place where they are supposed to be encouraged to embrace their ideals and independence.  With new laws being put in place, allowing universities to restrict rights protected under the first amendment,  there is more controversy than ever.

On October 29th of 2016 a fan at University of Wisconsin-vs.-Nebraska game wore an Obama costume with a noose tied around its neck.  The fan was asked to remove the offensive parts of the costume and agreed.  The debate comes into play if the man had not complied with the university’s request.  Would they have had the right to further pursue the issue?  Although the costume was extremely offensive and could be considered violent and racist, the man was technically exercising his right to freedom of expression.  He was not making any threats nor putting anyone in danger.  Just because the costume is deemed offensive does not mean it is violating the rights protected under the first amendment.  In another case, the University of Missouri expelled a student who published an article in an underground newspaper that contained offensive language.  When the case was brought to court it was ruled, “the mere dissemination of ideas-no matter how offensive to good taste- on a state university campus may not be shut off in the same alone of ‘conventions of decency'”.

Despite the offensive and racist nature of the fan’s costume, it is protected under the first amendment and he is allowed to wear it.  An important thing to remember when it comes to cases like this is that they are all different and need to be handled that way.  Universities need to keep in mind that their institutions are a crucial place for students to express themselves and their belief without restrict by what is deemed offensive.

Works Cited

Nowicki, Jenn. “Can Universities Restrict Free Speech On Campus?” Generation Progress. N.p., 15 Mar. 2013. Web. 21 Feb. 2017.

“State of the Law: Speech Codes.” FIRE. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Feb. 2017.

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.

 

Net Neutrality-The First Amendment Issue of Our Time

Net neutrality has been around since the internet took off. It says that internet service providers cannot slow down certain websites. This is so that they don’t slow down certain to discourage traffic on that site, but it has become an increasingly hot issue over the past few years. Some people believe that everyone should have equal access to the web and that companies that provide internet services are simply there to transfer information without bias. The big media companies, however, believe that since they engage in and transmit speech, that this is a violation of the first amendment.

Verizon in particular have voiced that they think it violates the first amendment by stripping these ISP’s of control over the transmission of speech on their networks. Other internet service providers also agree that net neutrality imposes dramatic new restrictions and that the government seeks to control all aspects of broadband internet access service.

Recently, the organization that regulates net neutrality has proposed new rules that permit a fast lane for content providers that are willing and able to pay for it. Many people believe that if the court allows this new rule, that broadband companies will shut off access to web sites and ideas they don’t like, and it will funnel consumers instead to the sites and ideas that are favorable to corporate interests. This, they think, risks the loss of free flow and exchange of ideas that is central to democracy.

Banned Books

Should libraries be able to regulate books?

 

There are many reasons as to why books are being banned from public and school libraries.  All these reasons are racial issues, encouragement of “damaging” lifestyles, blasphemous dialog, sexual situations, violence, witchcraft, religious affirmation, political bias, and age inappropriate. The most popular for books to banned is having sexual situations, age appropriate, and religious affirmation.  Fifty Shades of Grey and To Kill a Mockingbird are examples are banned books.  In these books, the material used in it is obscenite.  According to the Freedom of Speech,  people have the right to read what other people write and express themselves.  Island trees school district vs. Pico set the standards of banning books from the libraries.  

Although with the libraries regulating books people don’t get to have that right.  Even though, they get to read books without those challenging they don’t get to read the ones that were banned.  So under the freedom of speech is it right for libraries to regulate books?  Some books aren’t meant for children to read so libraries regulate books to protect the children’s mind.  A pro for libraries to regulate books is that it will protect children from what is in the book.  A con is that they should be able to read books to express themselves.  In overall, libraries regulating books isn’t a bad thing because it helps children reading the wrong type of material.  

Confederate Flags Are Banned From Schools

Defenders of the Confederate flags demands that it symbolizes the heritage, not hate. Many other Americans see it as an emblem of white supremacy. Freedom of speech is one of the most important facets of our democracy, we as individuals wear these symbols to protest a school policy that prohibits them. So should students be allowed to wear Confederate symbols at school, or should the school limit the freedom of speech? A peaceful student who attended at a Virginia High School demonstrated his view with confederacy, which ended with school administrators suspending twenty three students for wearing clothing with the Confederate flag. According to school officials, other students, and parents, this violated the school’s dress code.

The other big issue is that Students are banned from wearing any clothing that could possibly reflect negatively on someone due to their race, which specifies that any clothing with Confederate symbols would fall into that category. Based on the school’s recent experiences with displays of the Confederate flag, it’s likely to disrupt schoolwork, by exacerbating racial hostilities leading to fights and similar disruptions. Speeches will lead to violent attacks on the speaker, unless an outright riot is looming. School administrators should be free to prevent substantial risks of material disruption whatever the disruptive mechanism might be.

 

Tags: Press, Confederacy, Confederate Flag, Public, Freedom, Controversial

 

Works Cited:

 

Board, T. (2017). Should students be allowed to wear Confederate flag clothing?. latimes.com. Retrieved 20 February 2017, from http://www.latimes.com/opinion/editorials/la-ed-flag-20150820-story.html

Volokh, E. & Volokh, E. (2017). Opinion | The Confederate flag, the First Amendment and public schools. Washington Post. Retrieved 20 February 2017, from https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/volokh-conspiracy/wp/2015/09/21/the-confederate-flag-the-first-amendment-and-public-schools/?utm_term=.b27201551dd5

SLAPPed

There have been a lot of problems with SLAPPs not only in the United States of America, but around the world as well. First, to understand the issue, you need to know what a SLAPP is. A SLAPP is a strategic lawsuit against public participation. What that does is if a person has an issue with a large corporation, the corporation can file a lawsuit against the person in an effort to intimidate them with money. For example, The New York Times released an article about a guy in Kalamazoo Michigan titled “Venting Online, Consumers Can Find Themselves in Courtwho got his car towed from his parking space at his apartment, so he created a Facebook page titled, “Kalamazoo Residents against T&J Towing.”  This Facebook page got quite a bit of traffic, and then the towing company filed a lawsuit against him for $750,000. The lawyer for the company feel that it was justified, however many others criticize the choice to file a lawsuit and call it a SLAPP. Many large organizations file the lawsuits to silence the bad comments about their company. They do this through fear of the fact that the average person can not afford these large lawsuits, and they end up taking back what they said. According to the article “SLAPPs–Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation: Coming to a Controversy Near You”, by Sharon Beder, she says, “Most [cases] are dismissed by the courts and 77% of those that are heard by the courts are won by the people being sued.” so it is just showing that companies are trying to put fear in people to reclaim their statements about the company. I did a lot of research to find a viewpoint where people support SLAPPs and oppose the Anti-SLAPP laws, I did not find any, so feel free to comment any that you find.

SLAPPs are dangerous because they go against freedom of speech, it forces people who have complaints to hold back because they are afraid that the company will file a lawsuit and cost them a lot of time and money for a little complaint.    

Hate Speech vs. Free Speech

As of today, the First Amendment does not contain an exception for hate speech, meaning it is allowed and even protected under freedom of speech.  There is a limit to speech considered “fighting words,” or threats, but hate speech is not included because the First Amendment considers it to be merely an expression of opinion.  Many people believe that our Constitution should be altered to limit hate speech due to its potentially detrimental effects on the victims; however as of right now, any citizen has the right to express their hate as long as it doesn’t put others in danger.

One of the most recent cases involving hate speech is Phelps vs. Snyder, when Westboro Baptist Church protested at the funeral of Marine Lance Corporal Matthew Snyder, who had died in Iraq. The church strongly believes that God punishes the United States for its tolerance of homosexuality, especially within the military, so they often protest at military funerals with signs with phrases like “Thank God for Dead Soldiers” and “God Hates Fags.”  Matthew’s father, Albert Snyder, testified against the church with the claim that he is unable to separate the thoughts of his son’s death with the thoughts of the hateful protest, often getting physically ill just thinking about it.  After much consideration, the Supreme Court sided with the church on the premise that their protest is a matter of public concern expressed on public property, and therefore protected by the First Amendment.  Similarly, the members of the church have the right to communicate their ideas just as we all do.  

Although this is technically correct, many people still regard their protests as an act of lawlessness, and think the Westboro Baptist Church and its members should have taken responsibility for the repercussions on the Snyder family.  I think the Constitution should put some type of limitation on hate speech. Clearly not all of it can be restricted, as it would infringe on our citizens’ rights to expression, but I do believe some structure should be put in place. For example, with Albert Snyder and his physical disturbance caused by the protests.  Although legal, these assertions have caused pain for many people, and should therefore be outlawed under the First Amendment.

 

Works Cited:

 

Liptak, Adam. “Funeral Picketing Is Free Speech, Court Rules”. Nytimes.com. N. p., 2014. Web. 15 Feb. 2017.

 

Volokh, Eugene. “No, There’S No “Hate Speech” Exception To The First Amendment”. Washington Post. N. p., 2017. Web. 17 Feb. 2017.