Nearly 40 years ago, the Supreme Court ruled that students do not shed their right to freedom of speech "at the schoolhouse gate." Administrators, therefore, could not prohibit them from wearing black armbands in silent protest of the Vietnam War.
Over the next three decades, the court chipped away at the case, and last year, it ruled that administrators could punish a student for displaying the message, "Bong Hits 4 Jesus."
This discussion examines what's left of student free speech, thorny issues such as offensive speech by students on blogs, and how to balance different philosophies of education in the context of the First Amendment- The New School
Joan E. Bertin, Executive Director of the National Coalition Against Censorship, is a graduate of NYU Law School, where she was a fellow in the Arthur Garfield Hays Civil Liberties Program.
After law school, she spent seven years representing indigent clients as a legal services lawyer, and more than a dozen litigating civil rights and civil liberties cases at the ACLU.
She has taught at Columbia University, where she remains on the faculty, and at Sarah Lawrence College, where she held the Joanne Woodward Chair in Public Policy, but she prefers activism to academia.
She frequently speaks and writes on legal and policy issues, and is the author of more than 30 chapters and articles in professional books and journals.
Marjorie Heins founded the Free Expression Policy Project. She is the author of Not in Front of the Children: "Indecency," Censorship, and the Innocence of Youth, which won the American Library Association's Eli M. Oboler Award in 2002 for the best published work in the field of intellectual freedom.
From 2004-07, she was a fellow in the Brennan Center for Justice Democracy Program. From 1991-98, she directed the American Civil Liberties Union's Arts Censorship Project, where she was co-counsel in a number of Supreme Court cases, including Reno v. ACLU (the challenge to the 1996 Communications Decency Act).
Marjorie is also the author of Sex, Sin, and Blasphemy: A Guide to America's Censorship Wars (1993, 1998), "The Progress of Science and Useful Arts": Why Copyright Today Threatens Intellectual Freedom (2003), and numerous book chapters and articles about free expression, copyright, and media reform. She graduated from Harvard Law School in 1978.
Frank LoMonte, Executive Director of the Student Press Law Center, is an experienced commercial litigation attorney who joined SPLC after practicing with the Atlanta-based law firm of Sutherland Asbill & Brennan LLP and clerking for federal judges on the Northern District of Georgia and the Eleventh Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals.
Before law school, LoMonte was an award-winning investigative journalist and political columnist in state capitol bureaus in Florida and Georgia and in Washington, D.C. with the Morris newspaper chain.
LoMonte graduated magna cum laude from the University of Georgia School of Law, where he was a senior editor of the Georgia Law Review.
Founder of Free Expression Policy Project Marjorie Heins recalls the 1969 Supreme Court case Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District, citing it as a high point of student free speech, and describes its implications for today.
Frank LoMonte, Executive Director of Student Press Law Center, discusses the positive and negative effects of the Morse v. Frederick Supreme Court decision on First Amendment rights.
Positively, LoMonte says the judges drew a clear "Morse Firewall," concluding that simply "being offensive is not enough to remove the First Amendment protection from a student."
On the other hand, LoMonte believes the Court's final decision, which concluded that the phrase "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" promoted harmful illegal drug use and was thus unacceptable, leaves too much room for ambiguity in defining what constitutes promotion of illegal drug use.