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Supreme Court Cases Where Students Influenced The Constitution

Categories Brown Vs Board Of Education, Civil Rights, Constitution, Freedom Of Speech

Essay, Pages 6 (1333 words)



Essay, Pages 6 (1333 words)

The case of the First Amendment violation against the San Diego Unified School District of students’ rights and the uniform dress code in public schools. The school’s contention was the uniform dress code thwarted gang violence because some apparel to include certain colored bandannas, baseball caps, and baggy clothing exacerbated further gang activity and affiliation. The California Board of Education, however, amended their dress code to allow school districts to implement realistic dress code guidelines (Barbarosh, 1994). The school district conveyed that their intention was not to ban certain clothing or violate students’ rights but implement a uniform dress code that will allow all students to be dressed similarly.

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The Supreme Court recognized the school’s responsibility is to protect students from violence in schools.

Relevant Court Cases

The three Supreme Court precedent-setting in student freedom of speech cases deal with the First Amendment for public elementary, middle, and high schools: (1) Bethel v. Fraser (1986) case was sustained by the Court where the punishment of a student for giving a speech filled with sexual obscenities at a school assembly nominating another student for a position in student government.

(2) West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette (1943) case that required students to salute the flag and recite the Pledge of Allegiance which violated the rights of students who were Jehovah’s Witnesses (3) Hazelwood School District. v. Kuhlmeier, 484 U.S. 260, (1988) case regarding deleted pages from a school article on pregnancy (Golub,1988).

Tinker v. Des Moines (1969)

Tinker v. Des Moines (1969) Independent Community School District, 393 United States 503 was a landmark decision involving the free speech rights of several students.

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Three public school students in Des Moines, Iowa were suspended from school because they were wearing black armbands protesting America’s military involvement in the Vietnam war. In the Tinker ruling, the Court ruled that the school could not prevent the students’ free speech rights because the students were not disturbing the peace and did not encroach on the rights of other students. Since the students were quiet and docile, they also behaved in a manner that is conducive to the protection of the free speech clause of the First Amendment. Consequently, the Court agreed that neither the school or students should give up their constitutional right to freedom of expression on the school grounds. The Court conveyed that school officials are in their right to maintain some sort of discipline without violating the rights of students unless there is forbidden conduct that interferes with the safety of other students on school grounds (Chemerinsky,1999). Consequently, seventeen years later, in Bethel School District No. 403 v. Fraser, illustrates a case in favor of school officials in Washington, the Court ruled that the school did not violate students’ rights if they do not adhere to the school rules which clearly stated that offensive, lewd, or obscene language is prohibited on school grounds. In 1969, the United States Supreme Court Holdings included 7-2 ruling was in favor of all the petitioners (e.g. students) because students wearing black armbands in protest of America’s military in Vietnam – the school violated the First Amendment with the suspension. Moreover, the students’ free rights had to be protected even if they are on school grounds does not preclude their constitutional rights (Thibodeaux, 1987). The First Amendment corroborated the rationale or justification given to the Tinker v. Des Moines (1969) case because it protects the students’ right to communicate contentious but non-disruptive views if it does not agree with the policies set by the school. The Tinker v. Des Moines (1969) is an important case that involves student freedom of speech rather than spoken in words or expressions to wear symbols of political to include controversial meanings. Consequently, the First Amendment does allow free speech, online bullying is not protected because the Courts have considered it inappropriate behavior (Goldstein, 1969).

Pickering v. Board of Education (1968)

Pickering v. Board of Education (1968), the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Board of Education on the case of Marvin Pickering (school teacher) who wrote to the Lockport newspaper to complain about increases in school taxes. The school board terminated Mr. Pickering alleging the letter to Herald was detrimental and therefore suing the Board proposing they violated his First Amendment right protected by freedom of speech. The holdings from the judges concluded the Illinois statute terminating Mr. Pickering was unconstitutional as implied under the First and Fourteenth Amendments, therefore reversing and remanding the ruling. Consequently, the Pickering holding is under review due to the coup de grace delivered by Court in Garcetti v. Ceballos, 547 U.S. 410 (2006). The rationale on the case noted that public employees are not required to give up their First Amendment rights affairs involving the school, which compelled the Court to reject matters related to the termination of employees. Although some employees’ free speech rights are not the same and have the protection under the First Amendment as ordinary citizens, the case of Pickering v. Board of Education (1968) changed that to a certain degree. The Pickering case is vital to public employees’ legislation because it symbolized the end of the rights-privilege, therefore prohibited public employers from violating their employees’ constitutional rights. Lastly, the important message to gain from the case of Pickering v. Board of Education is that a person(s) have the right to speak about politics, but they do not have the right to police those rights.

Brown v. Board of Education (1954)

Brown v. Board of Education (1954) case legally put an end to segregation in public schools consists of five distinct cases (Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Briggs v. Elliot, Davis v. Board of Education of Prince Edward County (VA.), Bolling v. Sharpe, and Gebhart v. Ethel) heard by the Supreme Court related to segregation in public schools (Engl, Permuth & Wonder, 2004). The Supreme Court concluded that segregation in schools violated the 14th Amendment, therefore repudiated equal rights allowed by the Federal law. The effect was detrimental because it had the endorsement of the law, the policy of dividing white and black students to motivate them to learn. Segregation with the law deprived students of the assistance they would receive in an integrated educational system.

The Application of Law and Policy

The San Diego Unified School District approved a plan to deeming it necessary for students to wear (color chosen by the school) uniforms that play a role in ensuring a positive learning environment. Although the school district believes all students wearing the same type of uniform will deter gang activity, parents can choose to have their child(ren) opt-out of the uniform dress code without any retaliation or discipline in accordance with (California Code, Education Code – EDC § 35183.5). Gang violence is prevalent in schools; therefore, the school district can reverse the voluntary dress code policy should the need arise that the students’ health and safety are being violated without encroaching on the rights of students. The first dress code case was argued in 1969 by Supreme Court which is better known as Tinker vs. Des Moines Independent School District. The Court decided that schools are entitled to limited-expression if it can be proven that it will not violate the students’ rights, therefore, the San Diego Unified School District is not in violation of the First Amendment of Freedom of Speech.


Under the First Amendment, free speech should not be restricted because freedom of expression would not be if our rights could be applied in a matter that these cases have provided. The Constitution conveys that Congress nor the States cannot curtail our right to free speech. The First Amendment was violated in the four precedent-setting cases above and public schools are obligated to ensuring the rights of students are not violated. School officials are compelled to apply all laws, policies, and procedures to ensure that students receive the help they need regardless of their background or abilities in a safe learning environment while precluding students’ rights.

Cite this essay

Supreme Court Cases Where Students Influenced The Constitution. (2020, Oct 01). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/supreme-court-cases-where-students-influenced-the-constitution-essay

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