Student First Amendment Rights

Do I have the right to free speech in school?

Yes! The Supreme Court case Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District (1969) confirmed the rights to free speech for students in schools. However, schools can regulate speech that infringes on others’ rights or disrupts school operations.

When can a school regulate my right to free speech?

There are two phrases the Supreme Court used that allow schools to take action to regulate student speech: “material and substantial disruption” or “impingement” of the rights of others. If a case of free speech violation gets to the courts, most schools have used the “material and substantial disruption” argument. Often schools have used past instances of disruption to back up this claim. However in the case of Tinker v. Des Moines, the courts found that there was no actual threat to school disruption.

Since Tinker v. Des Moines, there have been other cases that determine when schools are allowed to intervene on student free speech:

Is protesting a form of protected free speech?

Yes! The Supreme Court has said that political speech and nonviolent actions that protest racial discrimination are especially protected under the First Amendment.

Additional Resources

A Legal Guide for Public Schools on the Regulation of Student and Employee Speech from the National School Boards Association