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Decisions of the Supreme Court of the United States affect students both directly and indirectly. As residents of the United States, students are affected by the same court rulings that affect the lives of all American citizens. That said, the direct impact of court decisions on students lies in the succession of rulings that pertain directly to students' freedom of expression and right to privacy. As the documents the linkages to which are provided below illustrate, there have been a number of such decisions with their genesis in educational institution rulings or policies that have been interpreted as unconstitutionally restraining a student's right to privacy and to free speech or, conversely, affirming the academic institution's decision to limit speech deemed obscene. In addition, the landmark desegregation decision in Brown v. Board of Education significantly affected students by rejecting individual state board of education policies that provided for "separate but equal" facilities (i.e., separate schools for whites and blacks, with the latter forbidden or seriously discouraged from attending schools for the former).
Important Supreme Court decisions pertaining to students rights include Bethel School District #43 v. Fraser, which upheld a school's right to limit speech considered obscene; Board of Education of Independent School District #92 of Pottawatomie v. Earls, which upheld a school's right to subject students to drug tests (an important 'right to privacy' decision); New Jersey v. T.L.O., which similarly dealt with issues of a student's right to privacy and which reaffirmed schools' right to conduct searches of students' belongings under specific circumstances; and Tinker v. Des Moines Independent School District, which protected students' rights to speech that is controversial but not obscene (such as political speech).
In conclusion, decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court directly impact students in two key areas of constitutional law: right to privacy and freedom of expression.
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