Freedom of Speech Morse V.;in Guiles v. Marineau (2006) (No. 05-0327 2nd Cir. Court) the Court of Appeals ruled that the school “violated a students free speech” by disciplining him for wearing a T-shirt that criticized George W. Bush and used images of drugs and alcohol (;Roberts alluded to Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier (No. 86-836) (484 U.S. 260) (1988), in which a student newspaper was censored because of an article on pregnancy, as justification for his theory that the rights of students “must be applied in light of the special characteristics of the school environment” (Opinion of the Court); and the fourth case, Bethel School Dist. N. 403 v. Fraser (No. 84-1667) (478 U.S. 675) (1986), a student was suspended for giving a lewd speech at a high school assembly (

The ruling by the Supreme Court in Morse v. Frederick does not fit with previous court rulings in this area of civil liberties, because this ruling essentially negates the 1969 High Court ruling (Tinker v. Des Moines Independent School District) which upheld students First

Amendment rights (in this case) to protest the War in Vietnam by wearing black armbands; in Tinker, Justice Abe Fortas wrote the majority opinion, and he stated that this form of protest activity “…is the type of symbolic act that is within the Free Speech Clause of the First

Amendment” (Findlaw, 2007). Fortas went on to allude to several previous Court cases, that will be addressed later in this paper, and he added, “It can hardly be argued that either students or teachers shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate.”

This ruling is not surprising at all given what the public knows about the Roberts Court; moreover, the 5-4 ruling in this case clearly indicates that the Bush Administration has – through the appointments of Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. And Justice Samuel a. Alito – succeeded in its goal to move the High Court to the right of center, and when reading the debate points put forth by the justices it is clear this decision goes well beyond issues of students rights and indeed reflects how polarized and politicized our society has become.

There are four conservatives on this Court and four liberals, and Justice Kennedy is more or less moderate, but tends to side with the conservatives on most issues; he sided with the Courts majority in a recent case (Rumsfeld v. Forum for Academic and Institutional Rights, Inc.) “…that also limited free speech in ways that could adversely affect higher education” (Rahdert, 2007) by upholding the power of Congress to require a universities / colleges to give “most favored recruiter” status to the U.S. Military; and the Roberts Court also ruled 5-4 in Garcetti v. Ceballos, concluding that speech “by government employees that occurs pursuant to their employment” (Rahdert, 2007) is not protected by the First Amendment.


As was stated in this paper at the outset, there are two real issues in this Court case; one is the interpretation of the First Amendment that free speech through public posters or printed material is okay as long as it doesnt seem to be advocating the use of illegal drugs. The second issue is the fact that George W. Bush has placed two men on the Court who are more conservative than the justices they replaced. And for Court watchers, it will be very interesting to see how far this Court goes in terms of reversing or modifying existing laws such as Roe v. Wade.

Works Cited

Burger, C.J. (1986). Bethel School District v. Fraser, a Minor, Et Al. Supreme Court of the United States (478 U.S. 675). Retrieved Oct. 25 at

Cornell Law Legal Information Institute. (1987). Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier,

No. 86-836) (484 U.S. 260), Supreme Court of the United States, Retrieved March 19, 2008 at

Epstein, Lee; & Walker, Thomas G. (2006). Constitutional Law for a Changing America:

Rights, Liberties, and Justice.

Findlaw (1969). Tinker v. Des Moines School Dist. (393 U.S. 503). The Supreme Court of the United States. Retrieved March 20, 2008, at

Knicely, James J. (2007). Supreme Court Debates. 2007 Congressional Digest Corp.

National School Boards Association. (2006). Guiles v. Marineay (No. 05-0327)

Rahdert, Mark C. (2007). The Roberts Court and Academic Freedom. Chronicle of Higher

Education, 53(47), 59-59.


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