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Are public schools and colleges generally prohibited by the U.S. Constitution from infringing on students' right to free speech?

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The 1st and 14th amendments to the U.S. Constitution forbid any federal, state, or local government from "abridging the freedom of speech." Because public schools and colleges are run by governments, they are required to respect this right of students. In multiple cases over the past half century, the Supreme Court has overwhelmingly ruled that public school students are free to wear armbands protesting war, form political clubs, and use school grounds for religious worship. In 1969, the Supreme Court ruled (7 to 2) that public schools cannot censor students unless they "materially and substantially interfere with the requirements of appropriate discipline in the operation of the school" or infringe upon "the rights of others." In 1995, Democratic President Bill Clinton issued a memo stating that "the First Amendment permits - and protects - a greater degree of religious expression in public schools than many Americans may now understand."

DocumentationStudent Free Speech



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