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The Meaning of The Freedom of Speech

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Freedom of speech means that you can say what you want as long as it is not false and causes chaos. Freedom of speech came about in 1791 with freedom of religion, press and the right to assemble. The Americans got this from earlier events in history such as, in 1215 with Magna Carta, wrung from the unwilling King John by his rebellious barons, is signed.

In 1516 the Education of a Christian Prince by Erasmus, “In a free state, tongues too should be free.” One more is in 1689 Bill of Rights grants “freedom of speech in Parliament” after James II is overthrown and William and Mary installed as co-rulers. Freedom of speech allows people the right not to speak, like saluting the flag. It also allows people to use certain offensive word and phrases to transmit political messages. It doesn’t allow people the right to incite things that would harm other or the right to make or distribute obscene materials.

Hazelwood Sch. Dist.. v. Kuhlmeier 1988. Students formed a school newspaper for their journaling class. In the newspaper, they included articles about teen pregnancies and the impact of divorce on kids. The principal opposed the stories arguing that they were too inappropriate for the younger kid and unjustful for the pregnant kids who could be identified from the text. He also indicated that the parents of the children who were divorced should have been given a chance to respond. The principal then deleted the articles from the newspaper. In a result three students sued, claiming a violation of their First Amendment rights under the Tinker Standard. The Tinker Standard came from a ruling by the Supreme Court regarding students’ First Amendment rights in 1969. Can school officials delete school-sponsored publications when they think it’s inappropriate for others? The Supreme court ruled a 5-3 vote and ruled that school officials can censor school publications when they have purposes related to certain educational concerns. There is a difference in private school student speech and student speech that happens in activities sponsored by the schools. Educators have the power to control school-sponsored student speech because the public might believe the school endorses what is printed in the articles.”A school must also retain the authority to refuse to sponsor student speech that might reasonably be perceived to advocate drug or alcohol use, irresponsible sex, or ‘conduct otherwise inconsistent with the shared values of a civilized social order,’ or to associate the school with any position other than neutrality on matters of political controversy.” -Justice Byron White

Edwards v. Aguillard, 1987. At a public high school, a student gave a speech in favor of another student at a school assembly. The speech consisted of elaborate and immature sexual remarks. The school suspended the student for violating the school’s no disruption rule, which went against “obscene, profane language.” The student argued that the suspension violated his First Amendment rights because his speech caused no disruption of school activities within the meaning of Tinker. Can school officials constrain a vulgar student speech at a school assembly even if the speech does not create a disruption? In a 7-2 decision, the court ruled that school officials can prohibit student speeches before an assembly that is “vulgar, lewd, and plainly offensive.” School leaders have a responsibility to instill values into students. It is highly applicable to prohibit the use of vulgar and offensive language in a public acknowledgment. The sexual allusions of the student in the case differed distinctly from the political message of the “Black-Armband case of Tinker.”

Thee officials weren’t abridging the speech from viewpoint but they were grueling the student for the use of vulgar and lewd words at the assembly. “The undoubted freedom to advocate unpopular and controversial views in schools and classrooms must be balanced against the society’s countervailing interest in teaching students the boundaries of socially appropriate behavior. Even the most heated political discourse in a democratic society requires consideration for the personal sensibilities of the other participants and audiences.”-Chief Justice Warren Burger

Pickering v. Board of Education, 1968. A high school science teacher wrote a letter to the newspapermen of a community newspaper, condemning the board of educations quota of funds between academics and athletics. The school board responded to the teacher saying that the letter consisted of false statements that challenge the purity of the school system. The teacher sued, insisting that the board violated his First Amendment rights by terminating him for exploiting his right to freedom of speech. Can school administrators violate the First Amendment by terminating a teacher for writing a letter to an editor that reviews important public concerns? In court an 8-1 vote, the court decided that school officials do defy the First Amendment when they put an end to public school teachers for speaking out as a citizen on concerns of the public. School teachers are authorized to some First Amendment protections. The problem arose at the crossroad of a teacher, acting as a citizen speaking upon matters of urban concerns, instead of an employer, in sponsoring the capability of the public services it performs through its employees. In this case, the teacher was more expressive as a citizen than an employee when he wrote the letter. The statements did not victimize any school administrators the teacher faced on a daily basis.”While criminal sanctions and damage awards have a somewhat different impact on the exercise of the right to freedom of speech from dismissal from employment, it is apparent that the threat of dismissal from public employment is nonetheless a potent means of inhibiting speech.” -Justice Thurgood Marshall

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