A June 25 U.S. Supreme Court decision upheld a local school board’s authority to regulate student speech that might undermine a school’s core educational mission, or which might interfere with its ability to maintain a safe, secure, and effective learning environment.
The National School Boards Association had presented arguments as amicus curiae on behalf of the local school board.
The case, Frederick v. Morse, involved a situation in which an Alaskan high school principal asked a group of students to take down a 20-foot banner reading “Bong Hits 4 Jesus,” which they had unfurled as fellow students gathered to watch the Olympic Torch Relay pass in front of their school.
Safeguard Students “Because schools may take steps to safeguard those entrusted to their care from speech that can reasonably be regarded as encouraging illegal drug use, the school officials…did not violate the First Amendment by confiscating the pro-drug banner and suspending Frederick,” the court held.
Previously, the 9th Circuit Court in San Francisco had ruled that the principal violated the students’ free speech rights. Additionally, the lower court said that the principal could be held personally liable for her action.
In its amicus brief, NSBA urged the court to overturn the lower court decision.
“Students should continue to have a wide berth to be able to engage in political speech, protest school policies, and express personal viewpoints,” said NSBA Executive Director Anne Bryant after the organization had filed its brief. “But the 225,000 school administrators in this country should not be fearful of being able to discipline students when their speech is offensive or disruptive.”