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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?
 
 

Schools can prohibit students from harassing other students on school grounds. However, schools must ensure that their speech codes are narrowly drafted in order to survive a First Amendment challenge.

In 2001, a federal appeals court in Pennsylvania struck down a student anti-harassment code that prohibited “unsolicited derogatory remarks, jokes, demeaning comments or behaviors, slurs, mimicking, name calling, graffiti, innuendo, gestures, physical contact, threatening, bullying, extorting or the display or circulation of written material or pictures.” (See an article about this.)

The appeals court determined that the student speech code was overly broad and could include “much ‘core’ political and religious speech,” which should receive First Amendment protection.

At the college level, many speech codes have been struck down on First Amendment grounds. Kevin O’Shea, publisher of the monthly newsletter First Amendment Rights in Education, predicts that “we could very well be witnessing the initial stages of a similar phenomenon in public elementary and secondary schools.”

He adds that “it is likely that many more school districts will see their own anti-harassment policies overturned in the face of First Amendment scrutiny.”

Schools have a duty to ensure a safe learning environment free from hostility and harassment. However, schools must also ensure that they do not impose far-reaching restrictions on student speech in their efforts to eliminate harassment.

 
 
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?
 
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Last system update: Saturday, April 24, 2010 | 15:50:21
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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