Free Speech Rights in Public Schools


Free speech rights in public elementary and secondary schools have undergone a remarkable transformation in the past 30 years, from nonexistence to a perpetual tension between those rights and the need for schools to control student behavior in order to preserve the sanctity of the learning environment. Today, it would be most accurate to say that public schools students have some First Amendment rights in schools, but certainly not as many as adults do in the real world. Although Tinker v. Des Moines Independent School District was the landmark case that set forth the standards which current student free speech cases are judged, the first case that suggested students had some First Amendment rights was de-cided much earlier—during World War II, to be exact.