A high school student creates a website which criticizes his band teacher. When school officials see the site, they
suspend him for violating the Student Handbook. The Handbook states ―students shall not physically assault,
vandalize, damage, or attempt to damage the property of a school employee or his/her family or demonstrate
physical, written, or verbal disrespect/threat.
The district court ruled that the school policy violated the student‘s
constitutional rights because school officials do not have the authority to regulate speech made by students off
campus grounds and unrelated to school activities.
(O’Brien v. Westlake City Schools Board of Education)
A middle school student is suspended and then expelled after he publishes a
website from his personal computer. The website contained vulgar and derogatory information about several
teachers, including statements like, ―Why should she [his algebra teacher] die? . . . Take a look at the diagram and
reasons I give, then give me $20 dollars to help pay for the hitman.
The Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania rejected the student‘s First Amendment claim. It found that the student‘s
website―materially disrupted the learning environment because students were discussing the site at school,
and the teacher was affected when she had to take medical leave as a result of the site.
(J.S. v. Bethlehem Area
A high school student delivers a nominating speech for a student government election at a school-wide assembly.
The speech contains vulgar language and sexual innuendo. The student is suspended under a school policy that
prohibits―obscene, profane language.
The Supreme Court held that school officials may prohibit vulgar, lewd, or offensive student speech at a school
function because public school officials have a responsibility to foster values in students. The speech was not
protected under the First Amendment because it was not purely political speech as in Tinker.
District v. Fraser)
High school students produce a school newspaper in their journalism class. One issue includes articles about teen
pregnancy and the impact of divorce on kids. The principal says the stories are inappropriate and invade the privacy
of other students, and he deletes them from the publication. The students sue, claiming their First Amendment rights