Supreme Court Called On to Protect Free Speech Rights of Students


Jay Sekulow

June 24, 2011

2 min read

Free Speech



Today the Supreme Court has an important opportunity to protect the free speech rights of students to express their views on controversial topics that may be deemed unacceptable to a school district.  The Supreme Court today heard oral arguments in Morse v. Frederick, a case in which we filed an amicus brief in support of student speech.


The high court should uphold the long tradition of protecting the free speech rights of students even when its a message most would disagree with.  While we strongly disagree with the students message in this case, the fact is that unless student speech is protected, a message considered appropriate today could be deemed offensive tomorrow.  We want to ensure that students who hold pro-life and pro-family positions will continue to be able to present those messages without censorship.  That is why the Supreme Court must reject the school boards argument in this case.


In December, the Supreme Court decided to take a case out of Alaska where a school district suspended a student for displaying a banner that read Bong Hits 4 Jesus which the school contends advocates marijuana use.  The student admits the banner was displayed for one reason to attract media attention during a parade when the Olympic torch passed through Juneau in 2002 on its way to Salt Lake City. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled in favor of the student and the school district asked the Supreme Court to take the appeal.


In our friend-of-the-court brief filed with the Supreme Court, we urged the high court to protect student speech.  The brief asserts:  The school district has engaged in blatant viewpoint-based censorship of student speech . . . A schools basic educational mission does not confer blanket authorization for viewpoint suppression of student speech.  In addition, the brief argues:  It would be regrettable if the Court were to resolve the important questions of constitutional law at issue here in the context of a jokesters prank, rather than a students bearing of a serious message. 


School districts must not be entrusted with the authority to arbitrarily determine what student speech is offensive and off limits.  In the future, that could put all student speech at risk including speech that advocates Christian beliefs on any issue including abortion or marriage.


A decision in Morse v. Frederick (No. 06-278) is expected by the end of the term this summer.