Does it violate my First Amendment rights if a school official reads over my graduation speech before I give it?

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

No. The courts have said school officials may review a graduation speech before it is given. They may also censor parts of that speech as long as they can show it is reasonably related to a legitimate educational concern. The U.S. Supreme Court, in the 1985 case Bethel School District v. Fraser, asserted that “The determination of what manner of speech in the classroom or in school assembly is inappropriate properly rests with the school board.” In its 1988 ruling in Hazelwood School Dist. v. Kuhlmeier, the Supreme Court wrote that “educators do not offend the First Amendment by exercising editorial control over the style and content of student speech in school-sponsored expressive activities so long as their actions are reasonably related to legitimate pedagogical concerns.” Meanwhile, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, in a case (Cole v. Oroville Union High Sch.) that dealt specifically with the issue of graduation speeches, issued an opinion in 2000 that stated in part, “the principal retains supervisory control over all aspects of the graduation, and has final authority to approve the content of student speeches.”