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American Student Rights and Freedom of Speech Research Paper

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Updated: Aug 17th, 2020


For many years, Americans were fighting for their rights. This case does not refer only to adults, as lots of people think. The rights of students were also discussed for them not to be abused. Students’ First Amendment rights are based on several principles that refer to their freedom of expression.

The Tinker Standard

In the second half of the 20th century, three teenagers put on black armbands, which influenced the First Amendment greatly. These were John Tinker, his sister, and friend who protested against the Vietnam conflict. Their actions triggered the appearance of the right to freedom of speech. Thus, the school authorities wanted to abolish such behavior and enacted a no-armband policy. The case came to trial, and the court supported school officials who believed that such actions would cause disturbances. Still, with time, another decision was made, and it was ruled that the fear of disturbance does not allow neglecting the right to freedom of expression (“Freedom of Speech in Public Schools” 149).

Two principals were undertaken “the government must abstain from regulating speech when the specific motivating ideology or the opinion or perspective of the speaker is the rationale for the restriction” and “regulation of student speech is generally permissible only when the speech would substantially disrupt or interfere with the work of the school or the rights of other students” (“Morse v. Frederick” 4).

The Fraser Standard

The right to free speech and expression was also questioned in the case of Bethel v. Fraser. Fraser wanted to see one of his classmates as a representative of a student government. Still, his speech contained so many sexual references that it was thought to be inadmissible. To prove is opinion Fraser associated his ideas with Tinker’s. As the speech was rather vulgar for the educational setting, the court decided that the rights of adults in public places cannot be identic to those the students have in school. Thus, it was concluded that students have a right to be free in their expressions as far as their content meets the demands of the environment. In this way, teachers have the authority to forbid behavior, which stands against educational purposes (“Morse v. Frederick” 11).

The Hazelwood Standard

The controversies of Tinker and Fraser’s standards were examined when the principal in Hazelwood said to remove the articles about teen pregnancy and divorce from the school newspaper as she believed them to be inappropriate. Some personnel believed that these actions were not legitimate and challenged them in the court. Then it was ruled that the standards for school are to be higher than those for public publishers. A range of school-sponsored activities occurred to be under the influence of authority. Everything related to them can be changed including the style and content. The main point here is the fact that the actions of school authority are to be “reasonably related to legitimate pedagogical concerns” (“Rights of Students” 24).

Morse v. Frederick

The principal of the high school, Morse, suspended a student from going to school. Frederick displayed a banner, which she believed to be offensive regarding other students. Frederic claimed that he conducted such actions just to attract the camera crews’ attention (Federle 991). The case was considered by a court, and it was decided that the principal should not be blamed. The issue was treated variously and occurred to be associated with the expression of the minority’s viewpoint, as the unpopular speech was abandoned while its benefits for marijuana’s prohibition were neglected.

First Amendment Rights for Minors

According to the courts’ decisions rights for minors include not only those connected with freedom of speech and expression but also those dealing with the information. It is claimed that in school settings, the officials retain “discretion in designing school curricula, attempts to censor access to materials in the school library will not be permitted unless the restricted materials can be demonstrated to be educationally unsuitable” (Chmara 9).

Still, the Supreme Court pointed out that as the minors have a right to speak freely, they should be able to receive the views that can influence and broaden their minds. It was said that the only information that should not be available for the minors in the school settings is educationally unsuitable. However, the library context is to be broader, and it allows the availability of the disputed materials. Thus, school officials are to be objective and consider resources and policies regarding the students’ rights.

Student Internet Speech

The off-campus online speech also concerns school authorities. In the beginning, it was protected by the dint of the First Amendment, but not the connection between the off-campus and on-campus speech is underlined. It is claimed that it can cause disruption, which allows the school officials to control online speech. The court claims that a safe school environment is more important than the students’ right to freedom of speech. Today this issue is argued, as the Supreme Court and the lower courts differ in minds. School officials are recommended to refer to guidance while making decisions regarding off-campus online speech cases (Bittner 178).


Thus, the students’ rights were questioned many times. The process of their establishing took several decades. Unlike common rights, they are to fit in the framework of school settings and can be controlled by the officials. Due to technological development, the range of rights was broadened, which proves that they are adapted to the existing environment.

Works Cited

Bittner, Marie. “Beyond the Schoolhouse Gate”. The Clearing House 86.5 (2013): 174-178. Print.

Chmara, Theresa. “Do Minors Have First Amendment Rights in Schools?” Knowledge Quest 44.1 (2015): 8-13. Print.

Federle, Katherine. Children and the Law, New York: Oxford University Press, 2013. Print.

Freedom of Speech in Public Schools n.d. Web.

2007. Web.

Rights of Students in Public Schools under the First Amendment 2015. Web.

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