Essay on First Amendment and the Constitutional Freedoms in Amercan Schools

Essay on First Amendment and the Constitutional Freedoms in Amercan Schools

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The First Amendment, usually equated with freedom of speech, affords five protections: Establishment Clause, Free exercise of religion, Freedom of speech, Freedom of press, and Freedom to peaceable assemble. Students (and student groups) in public colleges and universities enjoy full protection under the First Amendment; however, this right depends greatly on the context in which a student might raise a free speech claim. Once an institution creates a limited public forum for a student or group, administration cannot deny recognition to particular student or groups based on viewpoints. Given the great freedom students are afforded, the freedom is not absolute. The courts have allowed administrators to place reasonable restrictions on location, time, and manner of students and groups. In Tinker v. Des Moines, the court made it clear that, students do not “… shed their constitutional rights when they enter the schoolhouse door." To strengthen the importance of free speech on campus the court said, in Shelton v. Tucker “The vigilant protection of constitutional freedoms is nowhere more vital than in the community of American Schools.” These rights allow students to be able to take courses in a wide variety of subject matter, which may include topics often considered controversial. Moreover, student must have the ability to explore and discuss those topics without fear censorship or retaliation.

Because of the rights given to students in the Frist Amendment, school administrators cannot prohibit student from being ignorant, hateful, mean, or even using offensive speech. Consider the case Street v. New York, the Supreme Court held that speech could not be restricted because it is offensive. In this case the court stated “… it is ...


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... the established case law because of the schools ability to limit those freedoms. When looking at restricting or granting student or group speech administrators must be consistent, because allowing one student or group to expression their First Amendment right opens a door for other student or groups that can be difficult to close. The institution should have clear policies that designate Public Forums, Designated Public Forums, Limited Public Forums, and Non-public Forms. Furthermore, a policy should be created explaining a student’s rights with procedures for a student to redress grievances. Beyond the established policies, administers must be aware of (and have training in) student rights, but should also understand the breadth of power public institutions have to restrict those freedoms when the expression of those freedoms would cause disruption to the school.

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