Morse vs. Frederick
The school suspended Frederick for ten days because he held a banner that read “Bong Hits for Jesus.” He is suing the school under 42 U.S.C. 1983, with a violation of his first amendment rights. Did the school error when they took away Joseph Frederick’s banner and suspended him?
The District Court held that the student was in the wrong, which was proven. They also decided that the school had the right to punish him for his message. Although it was not known if Frederick’s protest would cause a disturbance, he was acting out on school grounds while school was in session. His message did include references to drugs, and brought in references to religion. The principal acted in what was believed to be the school’s best interests. So the disciplinary measures were completely constitutional.
In Tinker v. Des Moines School District, it was ruled that because the student’s form of protest was passive and was not causing a disturbance. Also, a prohibition against expression of opinion, without any evidence that the rule is necessary to avoid substantial interference with school discipline or the rights of others, is not permissible under the First and Fourteenth Amendments. Frederick’s form of protest was not passive, he tried to make others react. By showing his message on school grounds, Frederick was inferring that a religious figure took would use drugs. Although it is an opinion, it will offend other religious persons. In Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier, it was decided that the principal had a right to edit the school paper articles because it is a school activity and thus the school has control of what happens in said activity. The school does not have the right to stop a disruption from occurring if it cannot be proven that an activity will in fact cause an activity. Even if Frederick was planning on causing a disturbance, it did not come to that point yet. Another point is that even though Frederick was not acting under the school’s...
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