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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?
 
 

No, a public school may not pick and choose which student groups it wishes to allow. A school would violate the First Amendment if it censored certain student groups on the basis of their viewpoints.

In 1984, Congress passed the Equal Access Act to prohibit discrimination against certain student groups based on their speech. The act was passed to prevent discrimination against student religious groups.

In its 1990 decision Westside Community Board of Education v. Mergens, the Supreme Court ruled that a Nebraska high school violated the Equal Access Act by denying recognition of a student Christian club when it allowed many other noncurriculum student clubs.

The Equal Access Act provides that a "public secondary school has a limited open forum whenever such school grants an offering or an opportunity for one or more noncurriculum-related student groups to meet on school premises during noninstructional time."

The act forbids public secondary schools that receive federal funds from denying "equal access" to student groups based on the "religious, political, philosophical, or other content of the speech." This means that, as the Mergens case demonstrated, a school cannot allow the formation of a chess club and at the same time deny the formation of a Bible club.

Unfortunately, some school districts that do not wish to recognize certain student groups have taken drastic action in order to avoid violating the Equal Access Act. These districts have simply prohibited all student extracurricular groups. A school district in Utah banned all student groups to avoid recognizing a gay-and-lesbian group. Meanwhile, a school district in California banned all student groups in order to avoid recognizing a Christian group.

(For more information on student clubs, see Religious clubs FAQs in the Religious liberty in public schools section.)

 
 
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?
 
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Last system update: Tuesday, February 9, 2010 | 17:53:50
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student expression issues >
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Clubs
Pledge of Allegiance in public schools
Speaking out in school