Tag Archives: Schools

A Student’s Freedom of Speech

Freedom of speech, according to the first amendment, guarantees everyone the right to speak their mind–almost. There are several restrictions to free speech, such as threatening to kill the president or obscenity that apply to all citizens, including students. In recent years, there has been debate over additional restrictions being applied to students’ rights to free speech. What restrictions, if any, can be applied to students’ right to free speech in schools?

In the case of Morse v. Frederick, a student held up a sign that read “Bong Hits 4 Jesus” during a parade, and the sign was confiscated by the principal. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that free speech “as it relates to politics or beliefs” should be allowed, but any speech “regarding illegal activity or that could lead to the danger of students” should be monitored and controlled. Schools are ultimately responsible for student safety.  It gave discretion to teachers and administrators to determine whether certain speech is dangerous to students or suggests illegal activity.

Another restriction surfaced in the case of Tinker vs. Des Moines in 1969, where several students planned to wear black armbands in silent protest of the Vietnam War. These students were later suspended for wearing the armbands, but later sued the school district for violating their freedom of speech. The Supreme Court argued that neither students nor teachers “shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression” when entering school. In a 7-2 vote, the court voted that students could NOT prohibit free speech on the suspicion alone that it might disrupt learning.

In 2006, a student in California wore a shirt that read “Homosexuality is shameful” and “Be ashamed, our school embraced what God has condemned” on his school’s LGBTQ day of silence. The school barred him from wearing this shirt due to “concern about the protection of students in a minority group” that have been previously subjected to harassment. This has been an extremely controversial case with very good arguments on both sides. Was the school in the right for protecting their LGBTQ students from potential harassment, one of the leading causes of depression or self-harm? Was the student’s freedom of speech diminished because he held a controversial opinion? There is no clear answer for some of these controversies.

As future voters and involved citizens, we have to be careful about placing restrictions on their right to free speech. The ultimate purpose of schools is to educate children, so it makes sense that any speech distracting from the learning process can be prohibited. Similarly, schools are responsible for the safety of their students and teachers so speech that could elicit danger should also be controlled. It is important, however, to discriminate between protecting the students and the learning environment and disagreeing with a student’s opinion. If there is a genuine concern for the safety of students and staff or a disruption to the learning process, student speech can be prohibited.

“Student’s Speech: Speech, Walkouts, and Other Protests.” ACLU, http://www.aclu.org/issues/free-speech/student-speech-and-privacy/students-rights-speech-walkouts-and-other-protests. Accessed 20 Feb. 2019.

Trotter, Andrew. “U.S. Court Backs School’s Decision to Bar Student’s Anti-Gay T-Shirt.” Education Week, 2019 Editorial Projects in Education, 28 Apr. 2006, http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2006/05/03/34t-shirts.h25.html. Accessed 25 Feb. 2019.

United States, Supreme Court. Morse v. Frederick. United States Reports, vol. 551, 25 June 2007. United States Courts, http://www.uscourts.gov/educational-resources/educational-activities/facts-and-case-summary-morse-v-frederick. Accessed 25 Feb. 2019. Unpublished opinion.

United States, Supreme Court. Tinker v. Des Moines. United States Reports, vol. 563, 28 Feb. 1969. United States Courts, http://www.uscourts.gov/educational-resources/educational-activities/facts-and-case-summary-tinker-v-des-moines. Accessed 26 Feb. 2019. Unpublished opinion.



Praying before sporting events is nothing new in our country, especially for football teams. Others and organizations, like the Freedom From Religion Foundation, are saying that these coaches are breaking the law. The First Amendment allows everyone to freely exercise their religion and also allows everyone the right to freely express themselves. So the controversy is where the line is drawn, and to the extent that these freedoms go.

The line between what should and shouldn’t be allowed in freedom of religion and speech can sometimes be a confusing one. Teams and more specifically coaches, typically like to pray before games. Often asking for strength, courage, and that players remain healthy throughout the game. But coaches and schools are coming under fire for it, saying that they are violating the First Amendment for imposing their religion on students. The Freedom From Religion Foundation has not only gone after Dunmore High School, but another high school in Birmingham, Alabama, for praying before football games. They say that, “Public school events must be secular to protect the freedom of conscience of all students.” In their letter however, they fail to ask if any students have had any complaints about it, considering they are the ones who would be effected. Unless a student has told their coach, teacher, or school that they are offended by this prayer and asked that it be stopped, it doesn’t seem like it’s doing any harm. Sen. Lankford says, “Gratitude to God is certainly not a crime in America.” The only problem that could come from praying before a game would be if a student feels peer pressured to join in and not speak out against it. Although they always have the choice to not participate in the prayer as well.

The line for freedom of religion and speech for praying before games is definitely on the border. I don’t believe that it should be banned however, unless a student asks for it to be. Although since they have the option to not participate, I believe that others should be allowed to pray and practice their religion for the brief time before a football game.


Wertheimer, Linda K. “Opinion | Why You Shouldn’t Defend a High School Coach Praying on His Football Field.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 29 Oct. 2015, http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/acts-of-faith/wp/2015/10/29/why-you-shouldnt-defend-a-high-school-coach-praying-on-his-football-field/?utm_term=.64aa0bb5a937.

“Alabama High School Told to Halt Prayers before Football Games.” Fox News, FOX News Network, http://www.foxnews.com/us/2017/10/26/alabama-high-school-told-to-halt-prayers-before-football-games.html.


Should Teams Be Able to Pray Before Games?

Essential Question: Should teams be allowed to pray together before games?


There has been a lot of controversy over the topic of the Freedom of Religion within the First Amendment.  Many are at war over whether teams should be allowed to pray before games or not. The problem sparked at Santa Fe High School around 1995 and was reassessed in 2015 and 2016 after a few more sport incidents.  The First Amendment may protect individual’s rights to freedom religion but when it comes to teams praying on a public school property, it is not protected.  This is because the government is not allowed to promote religion in any way.  How does this relate to a school sporting event you might ask.  Public schools are owned by the government.  If a public school were to teach about prayer, or allow teams to pray together before events, they could get in serious trouble because one may see this as promoting religion.  Individuals may take a moment of silence but they must practice their religion to themselves so they do not violate others rights.  Some may take The government regulates this closely so that no schools is deemed favored over another.  There have been several cases of this and no school has won due to the fact that the First Amendment does not protect them on this matter. 

Some may believe that this violates their Freedom of Exercise but it does not.  They are not banning you from your religious practices as an individual but they are protecting the rights of others and the laws that they have to follow.  If other’s rights are being violated then it can lead to serious conflicts between families of the school and would have to involve members of the school board.  If word got out of conflicts like this, it could hurt the school’s reputation or would cause even more arguments from people not involved in the situation.  For these many reasons, school athletic teams are not allowed to pray before games.


Works Cited:

Membership, ALCU. “Your Right to Religious Freedom.” American Civil Liberties Union, 2018, http://www.aclu.org/other/your-right-religious-freedom.

Carlson, Mr. David. “Establishment Clause.” LII / Legal Information Institute, 10 June 2009, http://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/establishment_clause.

Ash, Elliott T. “Free Exercise Clause.” LII / Legal Information Institute, 4 May 2010, http://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/free_exercise_clause.

Green, Lee. “Prayer, Religion-Related Activities at School Athletics Events.” NFHS, 13 Apr. 2016, http://www.nfhs.org/articles/prayer-religion-related-activities-at-school-athletics-events/.

Should dress codes be allowed in schools?

Essential question: Does restriction of students clothing choices in school violate the freedom of speech clause of the First Amendment?  

Most students know about the first amendment and how it gives them many freedoms one of those freedoms being the freedom of expression. Some students in school believe that student dress codes or school uniforms go against this freedom they are given. In some senses school dress codes do but the dress code is there to prevent distractions to other students learning. In schools that have school dress codes they are trying to prevent the distractions that could come with students choosing what they can wear. Theses are valid concerns that school administration can  have there are many arguments that go against school dress codes.

Theses arguments against the dress codes and student uniforms are valid arguments. In crossen vs. Fatsi one student was told he needed to shave because it had gone against the school dress code. The dress code stated that “Students are to be neatly dressed and groomed, maintaining standards of modesty and good taste conducive to an educational atmosphere. It is expected that clothing and grooming not be of an extreme style and fashion.”. In the Supreme court ruling they said that the school board does not have the ability to state the grooming standards of students. In another school students are required to wear school uniforms. In the case of  Littlefield v. Florney students were told that they had to wear polo type shirts and blue or khaki color bottoms. If students were not in there uniform they would be pulled out of class and punished for not being compliant. This not only goes against the first amendment but it also disrupts student’s learning. Rather than students being able to express themselves in what they wear they are forced to look like everyone else showing that conformity is alright. In another school with a dress school uniform policy, some the Frudden’s parents of two young children tried to fight it. In the policy the students had to wear a school uniform or a nationally recognized organization on days the students have meetings. An example is boys scouts or girls scouts. On the first day of school the children didn’t wear there school uniform then on the second day of school they wore there soccer uniforms that were from the american youth soccer association. These students got called out of class and told to change because the team was not meeting on that day. From this the school is making the students miss class time to deal with something that was not a distraction and that was a very minimal problem.

In schools students should have the ability to choose how they would like to dress as long as it doesn’t create a distraction to other students in class. This would create a school environment that students are free to express themselves freely in a reasonable manner and not conform to others.  

“Crossen v. Fatsi, 309 F. Supp. 114 (D. Conn. 1970).” Justia Us Law, law.justia.com/cases/federal/district-courts/FSupp/309/114/2096028/.


CEPI Education Law Newsletter

Your Bibliography: Vacca, Dr. Richard S. CEPI Education Law Newsletter. 2018, https://cepi.vcu.edu/media/university-relations/cepi/pdfs/newsletters/2014-15/2014-9EdLawNewsletter.pdf. “FindLaw’s United States Fifth Circuit Case and Opinions.” Findlaw, caselaw.findlaw.com/us-5th-circuit/1408648.html.