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What is freedom of expression?
What rights to freedom of expression do students have?
What has the Supreme Court said about free expression?
May public schools impose dress codes and uniforms?
May a school punish a student for wearing Confederate flag attire?
Are political messages on students’ clothing protected?
Can students wear clothing with profanity?
May a public school official legally censor a school-sponsored publication, like a newspaper or yearbook?
May a public school legally censor an off-campus, 'underground' student publication?
May administrators remove controversial books from school library shelves?
What types of books are most subject to censorship?
Is speech on the Internet entitled to as much protection as speech in more traditional media?
Does it matter whether a student creates his cyberspeech at school?
May schools enforce speech codes on school grounds?
May a public school exclude certain student clubs or groups?
If a student creates his material at home, how can school officials possibly regulate it?

Good question. The courts are not uniform in how they analyze such cases. This question raises the threshold issue of whether the material is considered on-campus or off-campus speech. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court wrote in its 2000 ruling in J.S. v. Bethlehem Area School District: “We hold that where speech that is aimed at a specific school and/or its personnel is brought onto the school campus or accessed at school by its originator, the speech will be considered on-campus speech.”

It would be difficult for school officials to justify regulating material a student creates at home and does not bring to school. However, if a student creates a Web site at home using his own computer but brings the material to school, then school officials could likely regulate it under the “substantial disruption” standard from the Supreme Court’s 1969 decision Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District. This means that the material would be treated akin to an underground student newspaper — school officials could regulate it if they could reasonably forecast that it would cause a substantial disruption or material interference with school activities. What is not clear is a situation where a student creates the material at home and never brings it to school, but other students bring it to school and freely distribute it. No case has explained this situation with any detail.

Students also should be aware that there are consequences to posting certain material even on their personal Web sites. If a student posts true threats online, the school may contact the appropriate authorities. If a student posts libelous material, he may be sued for defamation in court. For example, several teachers in Indiana sued a student in 1999 after he posted allegedly false information that harmed the teachers’ reputations.

Can school officials restrict online expression because it contains offensive language?
Are public school students required to recite the Pledge of Allegiance?
May students pray or discuss religion in public schools?
May a student lead a prayer at graduation exercises?
Do students have to stand and remove their hats during the Pledge?
If I wear my hair long or dye it an unusual color, can I get in trouble at school?
Can students be forced to stand while other students recite the Pledge?
Can different rules about hair length apply in extracurricular activities and the regular school day?
What about the power of schools to control speech in the classroom?
How do schools resolve the tension between freedom of speech and the need for discipline and control?
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Last system update: Friday, November 14, 2008 | 14:29:52
student expression issues >
Clothing, dress codes & uniforms
K-12 newspapers & yearbooks
Underground papers & off-campus speech
Book censorship
Hate speech & speech codes
Pledge of Allegiance in public schools
Speaking out in school