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The Bill of Rights and the 14th Amendment

First Amendment

What level of First Amendment rights do students possess?

Public school students possess First Amendment rights but they are limited by the school environment. Generally, public school officials can restrict student speech that they reasonably forecast would cause a substantial disruption or material interference with school activities. This is known as the Tinker standard from the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District (1969; see LegalSpeak, p. 56).

In later decisions, the U.S. Supreme Court explained in Bethel School District v. Fraser (1986) that school officials can restrict student speech that is vulgar or lewd. The Court later ruled in Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier (1988) that school officials have greater ability to restrict student speech that is school-sponsored, such as expression from most school newspapers, school plays and school mascots. More recently, the Court ruled in Morse v. Frederick (2007) that public school officials can restrict student speech that they reasonably believe advocates illegal drug use.



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