For what reason should a student's free speech be restricted? Where in the Constitution does it not allow students to express themselves freely when it allows adults to do so? For what reasons would they do this?
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Students really do have overwhelming free speech rights, even in a school setting. But free speech is not always responsible speech, or appropriate speech, and a school setting is different than the general public.
By law, students are required to attend, so the rights of the student body not to be repeatedly exposed to that speech which they, the school and the general public find offensive outweigh the individual right of the student to free speech. Courts have been very consistent on this point.
The First Amendment right to free speech is not absolute for anyone, it can be restricted by the government for a variety of reasons. With all due respect, students under the age of 18, as well as students over 18 who are still in an educational enviornment must be aware that their Constitutional rights are subject to the delicate balance that must be kept between individual freedoms and the larger society. Individuals born in this country are American citizens, however children under the age of 18 are subject to a different set of laws constructed to protect their juvenile rights. Translated this means that children do not have the same cognitive capacity as adults, therefore cannot be held to the same set of laws. No where in the Constitution does it say that students or adults are granted or prohibited free speech freedoms. The 1st Amendment protections under The Bill of Rights (1791) were established to restrict government power over the individual. The 20th century has been witness to several Supreme Court challenges with regard to a students' 1st Amendment rights, some extending, some restricting the bottomline is that the 1st Amendment protections are relative not absolute...FOR ANYONE
The Supreme Court has ruled in separate cases that schools do have the right to curtail student free speech under certain conditions. The most notable of these was the Kuhlmeier case, where the court ruled in 1988 that schools do have the right to limit students' free speech when legitimate educational issues are present. I do know that the given the recent emphasis on school safety and climate issues, schools are broadening the reach of the Tinker standard in being able to limit free expression. Additionally, this has been brought into light with the growth and use of cyber communication, especially in light of bullying, intimidation, and sending inappropriate pictures. This is not to say that the First Amendment is being negotiated or compromised, but more that a student's invocation of the First Amendment will be scrutinized with meticulous attention.
As a high school teacher, I know that the reason for students' restricted free speech is due in large part for the safety of all students and the sanity of faculty and staff. I have seen first hand how an in class debate can turn very ugly very quickly because students want to attack one another and not each other's ideas. That said, I certainly know a number of adults who cannot keep their tempers in check when touting their beliefs.
First of all let us be very clear about one thing - the constitution applies equally to all citizens including adults and children.
Then coming to the right to free speech, we need to understand that this right does not apply to the kind of speech that can harm the interest of either the individual speaking out or others. The restrictions on speech of students are justified only if they serve the interest of the students as a whole. If your school puts any restriction on speech of student that are against their interest of students, these restriction are not permissible as per the constitution and can be declared illegal if challenged in a court of law.
But overwhelming chances are that the restrictions on speech of students put by almost every school are in the interest of its students.
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