Since Tinker v. Des Moines, how many student free speech cases have gotten to the Supreme Court?

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rrteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Many cases involving free speech by students have made it to the Supreme Court since Tinker, but many of those have also involved the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. These include:

  • Bethel School District No. 403 v. Fraser, where the Court ruled that schools could restrict student speech that was obscene, offensive, or tended to create major disorder, interfering with the school's purpose in educating students. 
  • Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier, in which the Court upheld a school's decision to censor a student newspaper which included the names of pregnant students on the grounds. This had the effect of allowing schools to censor speech in school-sponsored activities.
  • Rosenberger v. Rector of University of Virginia, where the Court said that universities could not cut off funds from student groups simply because they disagreed with them.
  • Board of Regents v. Southworth, which said that using mandatory student fees to support activities that some students disapprove of does not violate those students' First Amendment rights.
  • Doe v. University of Michigan, which overturned a hate crime rule at the University of Michigan because it was not specific enough.
  • Morse v. Frederick, upheld a school's decision to discipline a student holding a sign that read "Bong Hits for Jesus" at a community event, thus allowing schools to hold students accountable for their behavior off-campus, and speech that promoted illegal drug use.

Overall, the Court has limited the scope of Tinker to reassert that even though students retain their free speech rights in school, these rights can be circumscribed in the interest of maintaining the school's primary mission.