Primary and Secondary Schools
Right to constitutional rights In 1969, the United States federal courts, in Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District, ruled that, "Students do not shed their constitutional rights... at the schoolhouse gate." Right to free speech The Morse v. Frederick trial was a First Amendment student free speech case argued before the Supreme Court of the United States on March 19, 2007. The case involves Joseph Frederick, a then 18-year-old high school senior in Juneau, Alaska, 24 at the time of the decision, who was suspended for 10 days after displaying a "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" banner across the street from his high school during the Winter Olympics Torch Relay in 2002. State level rights In addition to the United States Constitution granting Freedom of Expression Rights to public school students, some state constitutions afford greater rights to public school students than those granted by the United States Constitution. For example, Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 71, sec. 82 grants broader rights to public secondary school schools regarding Rights of Students to Freedom of Expression. In Massachusetts, for instance, k-12 students are entitled to freedom of expression through speech, symbols, writing, publishing and peaceful assembly on school grounds. The Public secondary school legislation entitled "right of students to freedom of expression; limitations; definitions" says students have: "The right of students to freedom of expression in the public schools of the commonwealth shall not be abridged, provided that such right shall not cause any disruption or disorder within the school. Freedom of expression shall include without limitation, the rights and responsibilities of students, collectively and individually, (a) to express their views through speech and symbols, (b) to write, publish and disseminate their views, (c) to assemble peaceably on school property for the purpose of expressing their opinions. Any assembly planned by students during regularly scheduled school hours shall be held only at a time and place approved in advance by the s hool principal or his designee." The result is students in the public secondary schools in Massachusetts are only held to the “Tinker” standard regarding Freedom of Expression. Morse v. Frederick, 551 U.S. 393 (2007), was a United States Supreme Court case in which the Court held 5-4 that the First Amendment does not prevent educators from suppressing student speech, at a school-supervised event, that is reasonably viewed as promoting illegal drug use. In 2002, high school principal Deborah Morse suspended 18-year-old Joseph Frederick after he displayed a banner reading "BONG HiTS 4 JESUS" across the street from the school during the 2002 Olympic Torch Relay. Frederick sued, claiming his constitutional rights to free speech were violated. His suit was dismissed by the federal district court, but on appeal, the Ninth Circuit reversed, concluding that Frederick's speech rights were violated. Chief Justice Roberts, writing for the majority, concluded that the school officials did not violate the First Amendment. To do so, he made three legal determinations: first, that "school speech" doctrine should apply because Frederick's speech occurred "at a school event"; second, that the speech was "reasonably viewed as promoting illegal drug use"; and third, that a principal may legally restrict that speech—based on the three existing First Amendment school speech precedents, other Constitutional jurisprudence relating to schools, and a school's "important—indeed, perhaps compelling interest" in deterring drug use by students. One scholar noted that "by its plain language, Morse's holding is narrow in that it expressly applies only to student speech promoting illegal drug use". She adds, however, that courts could nonetheless apply it to other student speech that, like speech encouraging illegal drug use, similarly undermines schools' educational missions or threatens students' safety. "Further, Morse arguably permits viewpoint discrimination of purely political speech whenever that speech mentions illegal drugs - a result seemingly at odds with the First Amendment."