overviewfrequently asked questionscases & resources
  FAQs >
 
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?
 
 

Usually they are protected in dress-code cases as long as they are not conveyed in a vulgar or lewd fashion. In Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School Dist. (1969), the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that public school students could wear black armbands to school to protest U.S. involvement in the Vietnam. The Court noted that the students were engaging in a form of symbolic speech that was “akin to pure speech.” In later decisions, courts have recognized that students have more protection when they engage in political expression.

However, the language used to convey a political message on dress can be very important. For example, in 1992 one federal court rejected a Virginia student’s First Amendment claim that she should not be punished for wearing a “Drugs Suck” T-shirt to class. Even though the message spoke to an important political topic, the court determined that the word “sucks” was too vulgar and could be prohibited.

The issue is a bit different with respect to school-uniform policies. If a public school adopts a uniform policy, they can prohibit T-shirts with any messages, including political messages. However, the school could not constitutionally prohibit students from wearing political buttons or logos on their school uniforms.

 
 
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?
 
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?
 
Does it violate my First Amendment rights if a school official reads over my graduation speech before I give it?
 
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 public schools use Internet filters to block students' access to specific Web sites?
 
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?
 
Does a public school have the right to prohibit students from wearing hats in school?
 
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?
 
Can a principal forbid a teacher from reading certain curriculum-related texts in class?
 
View All Answers    Clear All Answers
 
print this   Print


Last system update: Tuesday, February 9, 2010 | 17:53:34
 SEARCH  MORE
student expression issues >
Clothing, dress codes & uniforms
K-12 newspapers & yearbooks
Underground papers & off-campus speech
Cyberspeech
Book censorship
Hate speech & speech codes
Clubs
Pledge of Allegiance in public schools
Speaking out in school