Date of Degree
PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)
Educational Policy and Leadership Studies
Larry D. Bartlett
The purpose of this study was to identify and review the current legal boundaries of student speech and expression rights in public school, as developed and defined by the U.S. federal courts, to better enable educators to make informed decisions regarding student speech and expression when confronted with such situations. The study examined federal court student speech and expression decisions published between January 1, 1983 and December 31, 2008. Four Supreme Court decisions and numerous lower federal court decisions were reviewed and analyzed to identify the current legal boundaries of student speech and expression in school.
The Supreme Court decisions in Tinker v. Des Moines Indep. Sch. Dist. (1969), Bethel Sch. Dist. v. Fraser (1986), Hazelwood Sch. Dist. v. Kuhlmeier (1988), and Morse v. Frederick (2007) were reviewed to identify the principles that express the Supreme Court's perspective of student speech and expression in school. The study then focused on the lower federal courts' interpretation and application of the Supreme Court's student speech and expression decisions to specific circumstances, and school leaders' utilization of these principles in making informed decisions regarding student speech and expression rights under the First Amendment. The study concluded that the current constitutional boundaries of student speech and expression rights in school were identified by applying the Supreme Court's student speech and expression principles to specific factual situations encountered by school leaders and addressed by the federal courts. The results of the study were condensed into a reference table that displays a spectrum of possible student speech and expression factual situations, identifies how the Supreme Court's student speech and expression principles may be applied to specific sets of facts, and provides educators with an instrument that may be used to assist in making informed decisions regarding student speech and expression in school.
Copyright 2009 R Chace Ramey