TINKER ET AL. v. DES MOINES INDEPENDENT COMMUNITY SCHOOL DISTRICT ET AL.
The important Justices of this case were Justice Fortas, who delivered the opinion, and Justice Harlan, who wrote the dissent. The most relevant historical context is the Vietnam war which was widely protested. The other historical context is the steadily increasing impact of young people especially in protesting.
The story behind the case is that a large group of students in Des Moines decided to wear black armbands to protest the Vietnam war. They were suspended from school until they were willing to stop wearing the armbands. The students and parents argued that this was unacceptable restriction of the student’s freedom of speech. When brought before the District Court, they decided that the school can make rules like this to prevent disturbance of the school discipline. The case was appealed up to the Court of Appeals which agreed with the District Court but with a equally divided decision. The case was then brought before the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court decided that the school cannot take away the First Amendment rights of the students when there is no proof that the expression will cause violence or school disturbance. The decision is that government officials (i.e. public school employees) cannot restrict the freedom of speech for citizens if it is not disturbing, threatening, or violence inducing.
The Constitutional question of this case is whether the students are allowed to disobey school rules in a peaceful manner and if the school is allowed to take away First Amendment rights when they believe it’ll cause disturbances even if they have no proof. Do the students have the First Amendment right to wear armbands protesting the Vietnam war in school? The relevant Precedents of the case WestVirginia v. Barnette, supra, The court decided that the school can’t compel students to salute the flag. Meyer v. Nebraska The court decided that in the education setting a variety of views must be allowed to thrive because if they are restricted it harms the essence of the Constitution. Keyishian v. Board of Regents The opinion stated that constitutional freedoms are most important in the school setting because the classroom needs to be a marketplace of ideas.
One ramification of this is that in public schools students cannot be forbidden to wear certain types of clothing or symbols as long as they won’t cause distraction or violence. Another ramification on citizens is that student rights might be protected more so that the schools can remain an exchange of views. Another ramification is that concept that political speech is protected more than any other.
Chicago-Kent College of Law at Illinois Tech. "Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District." Oyez. https://www.oyez.org/cases/1968/21 (accessed January 24, 2016).
BETHEL SCHOOL DISTRICT NO. 403 ET AL. v. FRASER, A MINOR, ET AL.
The important Justices of this case were Justice Burger, who wrote the opinion, Justice Brennan, who wrote a concurring opinion, and Justice Stevens, who wrote the dissent. The main important historical context is the changing definition of what words are offensive enough to be restricted in schools.
The story behind the case is that Fraser was a student at a Bethel High School. He gave a speech to convince the class to elect him to an office. The speech included obscene language and ideas. He was suspended but, with the help of his father appealed the decision to the School District grievance system who decided the school was right to limit obscene language. The case was then brought before the District Court which decided that the school’s rules were too broad and vague and therefore infringed upon the student’s freedom of speech. The student was allowed to speak at commencement after winning as a write in candidate from the student body. The Court of Appeals affirmed the judgement of the District Court. The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the Court of Appeals and decided that the school could restrict obscene language that was likely to disturb the learning environment. Constitutional Questions of this case include: Does the First Amendment of the Constitution guarantee all speech or does it focus on political speech? Do students have the right to speak in a way that might offend some members of the community even if it causes some disturbance?
Relevant Precedents: Tinker v. Des Moines, however the court decided that the decision in Tinker does not affect this case as it was focused on the concept of political speech Cohen v. California which stated that political opinions, even when presented in a disturbing or offensive manner are protected rights. However the court decided that this precedent doesn’t apply because it’s designated towards adults whereas this case involves the disturbance of a school environment. New Jersey v. T. L. O.which decided that the rights of students in a school environment aren’t necessarily the same as the rights of adults in a public environment.
The main ramification of this decision is that schools are allowed to ban obscene speech in a school environment. The decision also has the ramification that the school is allowed to keep its rules broad and vague and therefore choose violations on a case by case basis.
Chicago-Kent College of Law at Illinois Tech. "Bethel School District No. 403 v. Fraser." Oyez. https://www.oyez.org/cases/1985/84-1667 (accessed January 24, 2016).
HAZELWOOD SCHOOL DISTRICT ET AL. v. KUHLMEIER ET AL.
The important justices of the case were Justice White, who delivered the opinion, and Justice Brennan who delivered a dissenting opinion. The relevant historical context of the case is the increasing discussion of birth control and also rising divorce rates in the country. Another important piece of context is the increasing levels of underage pregnancy and the changing definition of offensive language. The story of this case is that the staff of a student paper wrote an article about pregnancy and birth control as well as an article about divorce. The school employee removed the two pages concerning these two articles before the publication and the students claimed that their First Amendment rights had been violated. The District Court decided that the school had made the right decision. When appealed the Court of Appeals decided that the District Court was incorrect and that the removal of two pages was an infringement of the student’s First Amendment rights. The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the District Court.
The constitutional question is whether the interference in the school paper is denying the student their freedom of speech and whether the school officials can interpret the paper in question as likely to cause a disturbance.
Relevant Precedents Tinker v. Des Moines was deemed not relevant because the school rules clearly dictated that the paper was under the final control of the school faculty and was therefore not a public forum in which free speech is guaranteed and rather a publication in which the final say is determined by the principal of the school.
The main ramification of this case is that school sponsored events and publications are not necessarily public forums with protected speech. This means that while in school classes or clubs any published document can be edited without interfering in the rights of the student. Another ramification of this case was that publications that might cause harm to an individual by failing to keep them anonymous doesn’t count as protected speech.
Chicago-Kent College of Law at Illinois Tech. "Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier." Oyez. https://www.oyez.org/cases/1987/86-836 (accessed January 24, 2016).