Where Do We Draw the Line? Free Speech in U.S. Schools

edCircuit Opinion

It was a very eventful year for The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, commonly referred to as FIRE. There has been a great deal of pressure on Colleges and Universities to publicly confront issues amongst the student body including race, sexual assault, gay rights and politically correct comments. Many would argue that these institutions are getting too involved, others say that they are not intervening enough. Although one question that has frequently been raised is: are students still allowed to practice their First Amendment rights in school?

The Atlantic reported that many administrators are taking advantage of laws put in place to protect faculty and other students. There have been instances of students being suspended for posting comments on social media that the school did not like. Do you agree with colleges regulating student’s verbal expressions? When are school’s justified to punish students based off of their verbal actions? Comment below.

At a Glance:

  • The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) has forced Colleges and    Universities to publicly confront national issues such as race, sexual assault, gay    rights and politically correct speech in college life
  • Laws are in place which allows schools to punish any speech as long as they can cite “intimidation.”

Around the Web:

Fighting for Free Speech on America’s Campuses

Cecilia Capuzzi Simon | The New York Times

The free-speech watchdog FIRE is a familiar irritant to college administrators, but until this past year, the rest of the country wasn’t paying much attention. An “epic” year is what Greg Lukianoff, president and chief executive of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, calls it. Colleges and universities were forced to publicly and painfully deal with a confluence of national issues — race, sexual assault, gay rights, politically correct speech — mirrored and magnified in the microcosm of campus life.

Finally, FIRE’s activism was syncing with the zeitgeist, in part because of Mr. Lukianoff’s role in framing the public interpretation of the campus turmoil. It was Mr. Lukianoff who made the argument, in a widely read opinion piece in The Atlantic, that today’s students are “coddled” and demanding protections against offensive words and ideas at the expense of intellectual rigor and the First Amendment. It was also Mr. Lukianoff who happened to be at Yale during the infamous Halloween costume shout-down of Prof. Nicholas Christakis, and whose viral video of it appeared to vividly illustrate his observations that many college students don’t understand what freedom of speech is, and who it applies to.

Freedom of speech, he said, is not an “intuitive” concept, and Americans take its benefits for granted. “I think everyone understands that they have a free-speech right, but they don’t necessarily understand why you should have one,” he said, sitting in his eighth-floor office in FIRE’s satellite space in Washington.

Mr. Lukianoff, a First Amendment lawyer who joined FIRE in 2001 after a stint at the American Civil Liberties Union, has been on an “ongoing campaign to trick people” into understanding those rights.

The ultimate goal? “Change the culture,” he said, adding quickly. “I am under no illusion that I can do that, but I keep trying.”

The read more visit The New York Times

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Do Students Still Have Free Speech in Schools?

David R. Wheeler | The Atlantic

In 1965, when Mary Beth Tinker was 13 years old, she wore a black armband to her junior high school to protest the Vietnam War. The school promptly suspended her, but her protest eventually led to a landmark Supreme Court case: Tinker v. Des Moines. In their verdict, the court vindicated Tinker by saying students do not “shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate.” The 7-2 ruling ushered in a new era of free speech rights for students. First Amendment advocates basked in the glow of the Tinker decision for decades.

However, the Internet has since complicated the meaning of the ruling, and those same advocates now worry students’ rights to freedom of speech are again under attack. Schools regularly punish students for online comments, even if those comments are made away from school property and after school hours. Although some administrators target cyber-bullies, others punish students whose only offense is posting an online comment that the school doesn’t like.

The situation has inspired Tinker herself to tour the nation’s schools to revive student speech rights, nearly 50 years after her famous protest.

To read more visit The Atlantic

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