The Edmond Sun

Local News

February 2, 2013

Students maintain free speech rights, with limits

EDMOND — EDITOR’S NOTE: This is a weekly series of columns written by attorneys at Lester, Loving & Davies law firm in Edmond.

Q: Do children have free speech rights at school?

A: American jurisprudence has, for a century, made it clear that neither students nor teachers shed their rights to free speech at the schoolhouse door. So, we begin with the concept that a student’s speech at school is generally as protected as anyone’s free speech rights anywhere. But all rights have limits. And cases interpreting constitutional rights long have recognized that the nature and limits of rights are, to some degree, dependent on the circumstances surrounding their exercise.

The U.S. Supreme Court addressed the issue in 1969 in the seminal case of Tinker vs. Des Moines, 393 U.S. 503. In Tinker, five students wore black armbands to school in protest of the war in Vietnam. The school administration, previously having learned of the planned protest, adopted a policy prohibiting the display of armbands on school property. When the students refused to remove the bands, they were suspended.

The Tinker case illustrates the legal issue well. Students have the right to free speech, unfettered by government control. Schools, though, need to provide order on campus. When the two needs bump up against each other, how does the law make them interact and coexist?

The Tinker case provides the basic rule. Schools only may limit students’ free speech when the speech materially and substantially interferes with the requirements of appropriate discipline in the operation of the school, or when the speech interferes with the protected rights of others. Because the Tinker students’ display of armbands did not interfere with operation of the school or with the rights of other students or faculty, the school could not ban the students’ display of armbands.

Other cases have defined additional exceptions to students’ free speech rights. Schools may regulate student speech when the speech is indecent. Sexual innuendo in a student speech at a school assembly, then, is not protected and can be regulated. Schools may limit the content of school-sponsored papers when the limitation is for a legitimate educational reason. Schools may prohibit speech at school-sponsored events when the speech promotes illegal drug use.

Today, the most interesting free speech issue may well be the degree to which schools can regulate student speech that occurs on public forum websites. The rapid growth of technology has greatly expanded opportunities for students to publicize comments that may offend or disrupt. We will address this issue in future articles.

MATT HOPKINS is an attorney for Lester, Loving & Davies P.C. More information is available at lldlaw.com. Send questions to questions@lldlaw.com.

1
Text Only
Local News
  • north 1.jpg U.S. News ranks city high schools in state’s Top 10

    All three Edmond high schools are ranked among the Top 10 in the state in a prestigious national list.
    U.S. News & World Report, which publishes annual rankings, ranked Edmond North No. 3 in Oklahoma and No. 437 nationwide. Memorial ranked No. 6 in Oklahoma and No. 847 nationwide. Santa Fe ranked No. 8 in Oklahoma and No. 1,075 nationwide.
    “This recognition serves as validation for our students, parents and staff members at all levels who work together relentlessly in pursuit of academic excellence, Edmond Public Schools Superintendent David Goin said.

    April 23, 2014 2 Photos

  • OC expands to 5 academic colleges

    Oklahoma Christian University will expand from three to five colleges beginning with the 2014-15 academic year.
    OC’s five academic colleges will be the College of Biblical Studies, the College of Business Administration, the College of Engineering and Computer Science, the College of Liberal Arts and the College of Natural and Health Sciences.
    “Our academic and leadership teams have been planning, praying and discussing how to build on OC’s legacy of exceptional success in science, engineering and business,” said Scott LaMascus, vice president for academic affairs. “Our new colleges will focus on growth in these areas and implement strategic planning to help us serve more students.”

    April 23, 2014

  • N Front Door 3.jpg FBI seeks suspect in robbery of local bank

    Police and FBI agents are investigating the robbery of a local bank by a suspect wearing a fake mustache and goatee, a spokesman said.
    FBI Special Agent Martinus McConnell said the robbery occurred Tuesday morning at the Arvest Bank, 2025 Sonoma Park, Edmond.

    April 23, 2014 2 Photos

  • Ekso 1.jpg Deer Creek students see bionic suit in action

    In 2010, a car accident left Guthrie resident Mary Beth Davis paralyzed from the waist down.
    In a few weeks, thanks to INTEGRIS Jim Thorpe Rehabilitation, determination and an Ekso Bionics suit, she will be walking across a stage to receive a college diploma from Oklahoma State University.
    Wednesday afternoon, Davis was at Deer Creek Middle School where students of teacher Jamie Brehm got to see Davis and the suit in action and learn about how it helps people live a fuller life.
    Brehm said the opportunity to have the demonstration fit perfectly with the testing schedule. Brehm said a bonus was having Davis with her inspirational story come to the school. In addition to graduating soon, Davis lives an independent life and she was recently crowned Ms. Wheelchair Oklahoma.

    April 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • clock edit.jpg Antique clock collection on display at Edmond Library

    In a world that’s often hurried and brief, the Sooner Time Collectors have nothing but time. Oklahoma chapter members of the National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors have provided antique pieces from personal collections to display at the Edmond Library until the end of April.
    Since the 1950s, Sooner Time Collectors have gathered to learn about the inner workings of clocks and to admire one-of-a-kind finds. Of interest to the community is their involvement with repairs for the Cowboy Hall of Fame clock and the UCO tower. They now have 35 members who meet monthly as a chapter of the 16,000-member NAWCC community across America and the world.

    April 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Be on the lookout for termites

    Warming temperatures and spring rainfall means swarming conditions for the homeowners’ nemesis in Oklahoma — the termite.
    Termites are Mother Nature’s way of recycling dead wood, as well as aerating the soil and increasing its fertility and water percolation. They are an important food source for other insects, spiders, reptiles, amphibians and birds within the food web, and they are essential for the wellbeing of the environment.

    April 23, 2014

  • Betz handprint.jpg Central students organize ‘Take Back the Night’ to end sexual violence

    The University of Central Oklahoma’s National Organization for Women (UCO-NOW), Institute of Hope and the Violence Prevention Project will host a Take Back the Night (TBTN) march and rally to end violence, beginning 7 p.m. May 1 in Pegasus Theater in Central’s Liberal Arts building.
    TBTN events date back to the early 1970s and focus on eliminating sexual violence in all forms. Thousands of colleges, universities, women’s centers and rape crisis centers have sponsored TBTN marches throughout the country.

    April 23, 2014 2 Photos

  • Police investigate more home burglaries in Edmond

    Residents have reported an additional seven home burglaries to the Edmond Police Department the day after an equal number occurred, according to city records.
    Police spokeswoman Jenny Monroe said a detective is investigating the new incidents reported during the day on Tuesday. Monroe said similarities in them lead the agency to believe they are connected.
    Tuesday’s reported burglaries occurred in different areas including near the Covell-Coltrane intersection and south of 15th Street along Santa Fe. According to city records, they were reported at:

    April 23, 2014

  • earth day 7.jpg Central community learns about water conservation

    Edmond residents know about rain that falls from their roofs after a storm. Some may not know what kind of important role it plays in the nation’s water supply.
    Tim Tillman, the University of Central Oklahoma’s sustainability coordinator, said UCO has a tradition of innovation in sustainable practices. Tillman said Earth Day, first brought to the campus more than 20 years ago, began that tradition.
    During Tuesday’s Earth Day Fair, Jason Summers, a Coca-Cola account manager for on-premise sales, was giving away rain barrels and educating members of the Central Oklahoma community about the benefits of rain barrels.

    April 22, 2014 3 Photos

  • pic 2.JPG Energy secretary touts CNG fleet conversion

    Oklahoma Secretary of Energy and Environment Michael Teague said the state is leading the way in converting its fleet of vehicles to run on compressed natural gas.
    And, he adds, the state is working to get federal officials engaged in moving its fleet of vehicles in Oklahoma to use CNG.
    Teague made those statements Tuesday during a visit to Champion CNG, 13915 N. Harvey Ave. in Edmond. The visit also coincided with Earth Day.

    April 22, 2014 1 Photo

Featured Ads
NDN Video
Poll

Do you agree with a state budget proposal that takes some funds away from road and bridge projects to ramp up education funding by $29.85 million per year until schools are receiving $600 million more a year than they are now? In years in which 1 percent revenue growth does not occur in the general fund, the transfer would not take place.

Agree
Disagree
Undecided
     View Results