Elementary and Secondary Student Rights Since Hazelwood

Since Hazelwood, the Supreme Court has not tackled a non-religious free speech issue involving a public elementary or high school. Lower courts that have dealt with these issues have tended to follow Hazelwood’s ruling pretty closely: a if a free speech case involves a school sponsored activity, school officials are given wide latitude. Since all but a few student free speech cases involve a school-sponsored activity, the effect has been that most free speech cases have gone against students, with some minor exceptions.

Lower courts have also determined that school officials have broad discretion at the elementary school level in controlling student speech, ruling in several cases that Tinker does not apply. However, most legal commentators believe that despite these developments, Tinker still remains in force, at least for high school students. School administrators are still required to show “material and substantial disruption” before limiting student speech in non-school sponsored activities.

Inside Elementary and Secondary Student Rights Since Hazelwood