Important Legal Cases

The cases listed below will help you learn what you and your school administrators can and cannot do in a school setting. Some of cases will defend your rights while others will take them away. Use the former ones when you fight back against government school tyranny. Each case includes quotes from the court and a link to the entire decision.

EXPRESS YOURSELF IN SCHOOL
Tinker V. Des Moines School Dist., 393 U.S. 503 (1969): “Petitioners, three public school pupils in Des Moines, Iowa, were suspended from school for wearing black armbands to protest the Government’s policy in Vietnam. They sought nominal damages and an injunction against a regulation that the respondents had promulgated banning the wearing of armbands.

1. In wearing armbands, the petitioners were quiet and passive. They were not disruptive and did not impinge upon the rights of others. In these circumstances, their conduct was within the protection of the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment and the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth. Pp. 505-506.

2. First Amendment rights are available to teachers and students, subject to application in light of the special characteristics of the school environment. Pp. 506-507.

3. A prohibition against expression of opinion, without any evidence that the rule is necessary to avoid substantial interference with school discipline or the rights of others, is not permissible under the First and Fourteenth Amendments. Pp. 507-514.”

SIT DOWN DURING THE PLEDGE
West Virginia State Board Of Education V. Barnette, 319 U.S. 624 (1943): “We think the action of the local authorities in compelling the flag salute and pledge transcends constitutional limitations on their power and invades the sphere of intellect and spirit which it is the purpose of the First Amendment to our Constitution to reserve from all official control.” “Words uttered under coercion are proof of loyalty to nothing but self- interest. Love of country must spring from willing hearts and free minds, inspired by a fair administration of wise laws enacted by the people’s elected representatives within the bounds of express constitutional prohibitions. These laws must, to be consistent with the First Amendment, permit the widest toleration of conflicting viewpoints consistent with a society of free men.”

NO BIBLE READING IN CLASS
Abington School District v. Schempp: “Because of the prohibition of the First Amendment against the enactment by Congress of any law “respecting an establishment of religion,” which is made applicable to the States by the Fourteenth Amendment, no state law or school board may require that passages from the Bible be read or that the Lord’s Prayer be recited in the public schools of a State at the beginning of each school day – even if individual students may be excused from attending or participating in such exercises upon written request of their parents.”

NO POSTING OF THE TEN COMMANDMENTS
Stone v. Graham, 449 U.S. 39 (1980): “A Kentucky statute requiring the posting of a copy of the Ten Commandments, purchased with private contributions, on the wall of each public school classroom in the State has no secular legislative purpose, and therefore is unconstitutional as violating the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.”

SCHOOLS MAY CENSOR STUDENT NEWSPAPERS
Hazelwood School District V. Kuhlmeier, 484 U.S. 260 (1988): “First Amendment rights of students in the public schools are not automatically coextensive with the rights of adults in other settings, and must be applied in light of the special characteristics of the school environment. A school need not tolerate student speech that is inconsistent with its basic educational mission, even though the government could not censor similar speech outside the school.”

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