dr martens black boots Vero Beach High School Has a First Amendment Problem
Vero Beach High Schoolon Florida’s east coast, has failed to respect the First Amendment. Krause, a top student, rising senior, our client, and the young man who should serve as VBHS senior class president in the coming school year understands better why the Constitution requires public institutions, like his school, to respect the constitutional rights of its students. for a humorous campaign speech he made; it disqualified him from the election only after he won the election. president. History teacher’s permission. You can see for yourself.
As you can see, the video reflects nothing more than good natured, All American campaigning for office. But the school says otherwise. from the race because of this speech.
The Constitution says differently. In Tinker v. 503, 512 (1969), the United States Supreme Court recognized “neither students nor teachers shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate.”
The Court held that a school may not censor a student’s speech unless it caused a substantial disruption of, or a material interference with, school activities. His speech simply asked his fellow students for their support in the upcoming student election.
To be sure, if a student gives a speech that is lewd, vulgar, or profane, then the school can sanction him. 403 v. 675 (1986). But that is not remotely the case here. His speech directly referenced national political campaign topics, such as Communism, raising taxes, and President Trump’s stated intention to build a wall on our country’s southern border. Nobody could have taken his comments seriously; that is, no reasonable person believes his fellow candidate for the presidency is a Communist, wants to raise the students’ taxes, or favors Sebastian River High School rather than her own high school.
Accepting that preposterous claim for the sake of argument, the Supreme Court has held time and again, both within and outside of the school context, that the mere fact someone might take offense at the content of speech is not sufficient justification for prohibiting it. at 509. As subsequent federal cases have made clear, Tinker requires a specific and significant fear of disruption, not just some remote apprehension of disturbance. Here, we have no fear of disruption, let alone a specific or significant fear.
We further explained that the school’s code of conduct policy regarding offensive speech violated the First Amendment, as well:
The Student Handbook broadly defines harassment as “any threatening, insulting, or dehumanizing gesture, use of data or computer software, or written, verbal or physical conduct directed against a student or school employee that: 1) Places a student or school employee in reasonable fear of harm to person or damage to property, 2) Has the effect of substantially interfering with a student’s education performance, opportunities, or benefits, 3) has the effect of substantially disrupting the orderly operation of a school.” Handbook at 30 31.
The policy’s broad ban on “verbal conduct” is unconstitutional, both on its face and as applied here. Supreme Court justice has said the same about a similar school policy. In Saxe v. State Coll. Area Sch. Dist., 240 F.3d 200 (3d Cir. Third Circuit Court of Appeals, in an opinion written by then Judge, now Justice Samuel Alito, struck down a school district’s harassment policy as overbroad, holding that even speech that is defined as “harassing” may enjoy First Amendment protection.
In Saxe, Judge Alito wrote that the school’s harassment policy improperly swept in those “simple acts of teasing and name calling” that had previously been held to be protected by the First Amendment. The policy’s language in that case barred speech that has the “purpose or effect of” interfering with educational performance or creating a hostile environment. It ignored the constitutional requirement that a school must reasonably believe that speech will cause actual material disruption before prohibiting it.
Judge Alito explained that even if the speech created a “hostile environment” that “intrudes upon . the rights of other students,” it is not enough that the speech is merely offensive to some listener, because “there is no categorical ‘harassment exception’ to the First Amendment’s Free Speech Clause.
The school’s harrassment policy like the one at issue here had no threshold requirement of pervasiveness or severity, and therefore it could cover any speech about someone the content of which could offend someone. Provided such speech does not pose a realistic threat of substantial disruption, the Third Circuit held, it is within a student’s First Amendment rights. did not create a substantial disruption to the contrary, the video of the incident reflects that the ‘speech’ allowed for 90 seconds of lighthearted fun, and clever political satire, in a high level academic class.
What’s particularly striking about this misuse of a speech code is the fact that the student handbook promises to deliver a much more robust institution for its public school students.
In the handbook, VBHS and the Indian River County School District claim the school must “prepar[e] all students to thrive in college, career, and community endeavors.” In the 21st Century, we should expect to hear opinions we may not personally agree with and stand ready to engage those opinions in the marketplace of ideas. History teacher’s permission. engaged in. The Constitution forbids it. and reverse that decision.
Mark Miller is the managing attorney of the Pacific Legal Foundation’s Alantic Center, based in Palm Beach Gardens. Super Lawyers named Miller a Florida Super Lawyer for 2014 15 and 2015 16. He is vice president of the Martin County Bar Association and serves as an adjunct scholar for the James Madison Institute in Tallahassee.
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I worry about our society when a students humorous impromptu class campaign speech becomes cause to void an election result.