MORE ARTICLES FROM ‘K-12 Public School Student Expression’

K-12 public school student expression overview

Public school students do not lose their constitutional rights when they walk through the schoolhouse doors. The U.S. Supreme Court has recognized that “students in school as well as out of school are ‘persons’ under our Constitution.” This means that they possess First Amendment rights to express themselves in a variety of ways. They can [...]

Pledge of Allegiance

“If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein.”— Justice Robert Jackson in West Virginia [...]

Speaking out in school

The First Amendment protects the right of citizens to express themselves in a variety of ways. Public school students, as young citizens, may engage in many modes of expression — from the words they speak to the ideas they write and even the clothes they wear.
Students can engage in political speech, which is considered the [...]

K-12 newspapers & yearbooks

Student journalists do not possess the same level of First Amendment protections as adult journalists. Many public school students who work on their school newspapers or yearbooks find that they do not have the freedom to write on certain controversial subjects. In 1988, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Hazelwood [...]

Underground papers & off-campus speech

Many public school students have turned to producing their own “underground” newspapers rather than writing for their school-sponsored papers. Some students wish to write about more controversial topics not covered (or allowed to be covered) in the official school newspaper. Often, school administrators respond less than favorably to these publications.
“There is a general reluctance among [...]


The Internet has revolutionized communication throughout the world, allowing people to correspond instantaneously at relatively low cost. Federal Judge Stewart Dalzell called the Internet the “most participatory form of mass speech yet developed.” However, this speech-enhancing medium has led to numerous controversies, causing many people to view the Internet as the premier First Amendment battleground.
Many [...]

Hate speech & speech codes

Some school officials have implemented speech codes, arguing that they help to ensure a safe learning environment by prohibiting students from engaging in harassing speech or so-called hate speech. However, critics contend that some of the policies go too far and prohibit protected speech. A federal appeals court based in Pennsylvania struck down an anti-harassment [...]


Students form all sorts of clubs at school, including some not related to the curriculum. Sometimes school officials shut down such clubs because they believe them inappropriate or too controversial. For example, there is evidence that many school officials have prohibited student religious clubs because they fear that allowing such clubs would violate the establishment [...]

Clothing, dress codes & uniforms

One constitutional controversy raging in public schools today concerns mandatory school uniforms and dress codes.
Proponents contend such measures instill discipline and prevent gang-related violence. They say uniforms and some dress codes lessen peer pressure aggravated by socioeconomic divisions, promote a unity of spirit and help administrators more quickly identify trespassers on school grounds. Some school [...]

Book censorship

Most people agree that the process of education involves confronting new ideas and challenges. However, because books often present controversial ideas or challenge the status quo, they are frequent targets of censorship. Even classics such as Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn are not immune from the specter of censorship. (Also see Banned books [...]