School is a place where students are free to express themselves, yet where is the line drawn when it comes to wearing hateful or controversial items? The public school’s dress code falls under the freedom of speech section of the First Amendment. Students are guaranteed the right to freely express themselves, unless the item of clothing is a distraction to other students or causes a disruption in class. Problems with clothing might arise with controversial topics such as political, social, cultural, etc. Higher enforcements may be involved if a school’s peaceful environment is interrupted.
One of the most famous cases where the United States Supreme Court became involved was the Tinker V Des Moines case. In this case, students expressed themselves by wearing a black armband to protest the war and were suspended. At first the US District Court ruled with the school, but then the case went to the United States Supreme Court, where they ruled in favor of the students. Each case may be different and it is important not to base each one off of the Tinker V Des Moines Case. Another occasion where a higher official was involved was in the case of Castorina es rel. Rewt v. Madison County School Board. Two high school students wore a shirt with the Confederate Flag on it to school, and were suspended for not following the dress code. The case ended up going to the federal district court and then to the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The judges found the case to be very similar to Tinker V Des Moines, however in this instance they ruled that there was, “the appearance of a targeted ban”, and it was sent back down to the lower court. Although many times the case of Tinker V Des Moines is referred to as a classic example, it is important to realize that there may be uncertainty with each situation, therefore every incident must be handled differently.