The First Amendment Center Discusses the First Amendment and Secondary Education

As many teenagers will tell you, they simply want to be able to freely express themselves. The application of the free speech provisions of the First Amendment during secondary education presents an interesting conundrum: balancing students’ desire for free expression with the need to maintain an effective educational environment. Often, legal decisions regarding free speech in secondary school publications align with the latter, giving secondary students somewhat diminished First Amendment rights.

The First Amendment Center took a moment to analyze a recent federal appeals court decision regarding the publication of a cartoon in the Ithaca High School newspaper, The Tattler. Students made multiple attempts to publish a cartoon depicting stick figures in various Kama Sutra positions. After the school rejected the cartoon, the students published it in an independent version of the paper, which the school also blocked from distribution. The appeals court upheld the earlier decision that the school had the right to censor the cartoon.

In voicing their opinion on the case, The First Amendment Center noted that it presents a potentially potent educational opportunity:

“The best student newspaper advisers don’t reflexively censor or roll over for student newspaper staffs, but do everything they can to help young journalists make the points they intended to make. That’s good for both education and the First Amendment.”

You can read the full article here.