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Student Expression Quiz
Student Expression Quiz
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Think you know how to express yourself? Can the school punish you for it? Test your knowledge!
1. True or False: Students have the same rights under the First Amendment that adults do.
Incorrect. The First Amendment applies differently to underage students than it does to adults. Schools have more authority to control what students can say or do, but that doesn't mean students don't have any rights! The First Amendment still protects students both at school and at home.
Correct! Although the First Amendment does protect student speech, students have slightly more limited rights than adults do. That means schools can potentially censor student speech in cases where an adult would be protected.
2. Which landmark Supreme Court case said that students have First Amendment rights in schools that protects their political speech?
Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier
Incorrect. Hazelwood is an important case that said schools can limit student speech that is school-sponsored or represents the school.
Tinker v. Des Moines Independent School District
Correct! The Tinker case recognized that students don't "shed their constitutional rights at the schoolhouse gate." Student speech will be protected unless it causes a substantial disruption to the school environment or interferes with the rights of other students.
Brown v. Board of Education
Incorrect. Brown v. Board of Education is the Supreme Court case that made segregation in public schools unconstitutional.
Morse v. Frederick
Incorrect. In Morse v. Frederick, the Supreme Court said that schools can limit student speech that references illegal drug use or other illegal activity.
3. For student government elections, each student running for class president is required to give a speech during an all-school assembly. One student candidate gives a speech that is full of sexual innuendos, crude jokes, and profanity. The school stops the student mid-speech, and it takes them a while to calm the rest of the assembly down. Can the school suspend the student for the inappropriate speech? (Hint: there may be more than one right answer)
No, because it was political speech
Incorrect. Even though this speech was done for a class election, the inappropriate language didn't have anything to do with the message the student was trying to convey. The school didn't shut the speech down because of its message, but because of how inappropriate the language was.
No, because it was just a joke
Incorrect. Just because a student says "it was a joke" doesn't make the speech any more protected.
Yes, because the speech was lewd and vulgar
Correct! The Supreme Court in the case of Bethel School District v. Fraser ruled that schools can censor student speech that is lewd (sexually explicit) or vulgar (profane) without infringing on a student's First Amendment rights.
Yes, because the speech caused a substantial disruption
Also Correct! In this case, the student's speech caused an uproar in the school assembly that took a while to get back in order. That disrupted the learning environment of the assembly, so the school would be able to censor the speech without infringing the student's rights.
4. True or False: At a public school, the First Amendment protects your right to lead a prayer over the loudspeakers at a football game before the game starts.
Incorrect. The First Amendment doesn't just protect speech; it also has something called the Establishment Clause. This says that the government can't force anyone to participate in a particular religion. By broadcasting the prayer over the loudspeakers, the school would be forcing people who might not want to participate in the prayer to listen to it, which violates the Establishment Clause. (Note that this wouldn't apply to a private school setting, since they can have mandatory prayers).
Correct! The school can't force anyone to participate in a prayer, and by broadcasting it over the loudspeakers, the school might be forcing people who don't want to participate to listen to the prayer. However, the school also can't stop you from practicing your religion (also protected by the First Amendment), so the team could have their own private prayer before the game and invite people to join in voluntarily without interfering with anyone's rights. (Note that this wouldn't apply to a private school setting, since they can have mandatory prayers).
5. School administrators have decided to cancel the after-school band club, and outraged students want to protest the decision. In which of the following scenarios would students most likely win on a First Amendment claim?
Students stage a walkout during class
Incorrect. Walking out of the school in the middle of class clearly disrupts the learning environment, since teaching will have to stop while the protest is going on. The Supreme Court ruled in Tinker v. Des Moines that such disruptive student speech is not protected.
Students show up before school starts and stand on the public sidewalk outside the administration building with signs and banners so people can see them as they drive in to school
Correct! The Supreme Court ruled in Tinker v. Des Moines that disruptive student speech is not protected. By staging the protest before school starts and standing on a public sidewalk, the students are not disrupting any education and not stopping any traffic from getting to the school. This is a great form of political protest and would be highly protected by the First Amendment.
Students form a human chain across the hallway and refuse to let students leave lunch until the administrators change their mind
Incorrect. By refusing to let students leave the cafeteria, the protestors are causing a substantial disruption to the learning environment, since school can't continue until they break their human chain. The Supreme Court ruled in Tinker v. Des Moines that disruptive student speech is not protected.
Students block off the teacher parking lot so they have a space to protest
Incorrect. By blocking off the teacher parking lot, the protestors are keeping teachers from their jobs. The delay in having to find a new place to park will probably cause a delay in classes and overall cause a substantial disruption to the school day. The Supreme Court ruled in Tinker v. Des Moines that disruptive student speech is not protected.
6. True or False: Even though the First Amendment protects your right to political speech, schools can still suspend you for skipping class to be part of a protest.
Correct! While the First Amendment does protect your right to peacefully assemble and speak your mind, students are still subject to their school's attendance policy. Even if someone organizes a school-wide walkout and everyone participates, the school could still count it as an unexcused absence.
Incorrect. Even if you're engaging in purely political speech, students are still subject to the school attendance policy. The First Amendment protects your right to attend a protest, but it won't protect you from an unexcused absence.
7. A private school changes its dress code to say that students can't dye their hair bright or unnatural colors. Does this violate the student's First Amendment rights?
Yes, because hair dye counts as "speech" under the First Amendment
Incorrect. Although the color of your hair can count as speech under the First Amendment because it is personal expression, that isn't the problem here. The First Amendment only protects you from Government Actors (like public school administrators), so it won't apply to students at a private school.
Yes, but only if you dye your hair as a political protest
Incorrect. Even if you dye your hair as a political protest (which is the most protected type of speech), the First Amendment still won't protect you from decisions made at a private school. The First Amendment only protects your rights against Government Actors (like at a public school).
No, because the hair doesn't cause a substantial disruption
Incorrect. We don't know if a student changing their hair color would cause a substantial disruption to the school environment. It probably wouldn't, but even if no one noticed, the issue is still that this is a private school. The First Amendment only protects your rights against actions taken by the government, so does not apply to private schools.
No, because it is a private school
Correct! Remember, the First Amendment only protects your behavior against Government Actors. So, the First Amendment won't protect student speech against decisions made in a private school.
8. A student wears a hijab to school as part of her religious beliefs. During an exam, the proctor asks the student to take off her hijab, saying that it violates the school's "no hats" policy. The proctor refuses to let her take the exam until she takes her hijab off. Does this violate the student's First Amendment rights?
Correct! The First Amendment doesn't just protect your rights to free speech, it also protects your right to freely practice religion. Because the student is wearing her hijab as part of her religion, the school cannot force her to remove it, even if they have a "no hats" policy during exams.
Incorrect. The First Amendment doesn't just protect your rights to free speech, it also protects your right to freely practice religion. Because the student is wearing her hijab as part of her religion, the school cannot force her to remove it, even if they have a "no hats" policy during exams.
9. A student is annoyed that he keeps getting parking tickets for parking in the teacher's lot. At lunch one day, he loudly says "the principal won't be laughing about those parking tickets when I come back and blow his car up." The student is suspended, but says that he was just joking and that his speech was really to criticize the principal. Is his speech protected by the First Amendment?
Incorrect. The First Amendment does protect a student's right to criticize their teachers, but the student's statement goes beyond that. Saying that he will blow up the principal's car is a targeted threat of violence that has to be taken seriously, even if he was joking. The student's speech is not just criticism, so it's not protected.
Correct! The First Amendment does protect a student's right to criticize their teachers, but the student's statement goes beyond that. Saying that he will blow up the principal's car is a targeted threat of violence that has to be taken seriously, even if he was joking. The student's speech is not just criticism, so it's not protected.
10. A student in your school is transitioning their gender identity from male to female and has faced bullying in the past. One day, a guy in your class wears a dress to school with the transitioning student's name written on his back and openly mocks the student in class. The school suspends him for wearing the dress, but he argues that it's his way to express his disagreement with transgender people. Can the school suspend him for this speech?
Correct! If the student had worn the dress as a general protest, that may be protected speech. However, in this case, he didn't wear it just for political protest; he wore it to specifically mock the transitioning student and even named him. This type of targeted harassment and bullying is not protected by the First Amendment.
Incorrect. Even though student who wore the dress does have a right to express his opinion on the matter, in this case, he didn't wear it just to express an opinion, he wore it to mock a specific student. This specific bullying and harassment is not protected by the First Amendment.
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