Restriction of Students’ First Amendment Rights on School Grounds


Students involved in landmark Supreme Court case, Tinker v. Des Moines

Jacelyn Cruz, Staff Writer

Growing up, we’re taught that when something bothers us, we have every right to speak up and use our voices. As we get older, we began to develop our own opinions on certain topics including politics, movies, sports teams, and even food preference. Some people will disagree on some things and that’s okay, everyone is allowed to express their own opinions In a non-threatening manner. However, just as you are allowed to express yours, others are allowed to comment and express their own opinions in return. Them doing so does not violate your right to speak nor violate theirs. According to the National Constitution Center, The first-amendment states “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof: or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances” (National Constitution Center). In simpler terms, the government cannot restrain what we say, post, and protest against as part of our constitutional rights. Does this still apply to students when we are in school? Yes, of course – despite what others say our rights are still protected under the U.S Constitution. One of the major court rulings that protect this right is the landmark Supreme Court case, Tinker v. Des Moines.

This case involved a group of students who came to school wearing armbands to protest against the Vietnam War. Administration told the students to remove the armbands or they would get suspended. The students refused to remove the bands and therefore faced suspension. In return, they filed a lawsuit which was taken to the Supreme Court. The final ruling of the court declared that “students do not shed their constitutional rights at the school gate”. This means students are still allowed to express their opinion as long as it does not disturb the school environment. According to Dr. McKenzie, AP US and Comparative Government teacher, “As public schools are a part of the government, they have to follow and honor constitutional rights.” However, unlike public schools, private schools “don’t have to operate under the constitution” he explains. This means private schools are able to make decisions for themselves, not based on the constitution. “[there is] greater freedom in the private sector.” Mckenzie explains. This means your rights at a private school would be more restricted at a private school than a public school, as private schools have greater authority over the student population since they are not part of the US bureaucracy. At the end of the day, public schools must abide by the constitution, therefore, allowing students to express their opinions as long as it does not disturb or threaten the learning environment.