Our founders recognized that public schools are a vital institution of American democracy. But education, they also knew, involved more than reading, writing, and arithmetic.
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Video Highlight
Mary Beth Tinker is an American free
  speech activist known for her role in the 1969
    Tinker v. Des Moines Independent School
      District Supreme Court case, which ruled that
        Warren Harding Junior High School could
          not punish her for wearing a black
            armband in school in support of a truce
              in the Vietnam War.
Arrow Down
Peace Sign
Mary Beth Tinker

A landmark case in First Amendment Rights as it applies to the school setting, Mary Beth Tinker tell her story of peaceful dissent. The simple action of wearing a black armband to her school, Warren harding Junior High, resulted in the suspension of her and four other students.

As her city and the press began to become aware of her actions, her story elevated to a national known issue. Ultimately, it ended up with a Supreme Court ruling that became the standard for many schools guidelines concerning student’s First Amendment Rights.

Mary Beth Tinker’s Story
Q & A with
Mary Beth Tinker
Freedom of Student Press

Assistant Student Editor on the Prosper
High School Newspaper

Education is about teaching students how to use critical thinking skills. This is what Neha Madhira believes. Tough and controversial topics must be brought to light, but always told from an unbiased point of view. When her school censored one of her articles, that’s when this controversial topic itself became the main story in Prosper, Texas... and nationwide.

Question and Answer_Part 1
Question and Answer_Part 2
Question and Answer_Part 3

Assistant Student Editor on the Prosper
High School Newspaper

Faced with censorship for the first time, Haley Stack and Neha Madhira, began their journey in fully understanding their First Amendment Rights and how it applies to the school setting and more specifically, their school paper.

This is Haley’s story of how the censorship began, escalated, and eventually wound up being covered in the New York Times.

Question and Answer_Part 1
Question and Answer_Part 2

From their first day forward, students at Lamar Academy in McAllen, Texas, are encouraged to be open-minded in discussing controversial social and political topics. They are also challenged to be risk-takers and to find and support causes they care about. The relationship between students and faculty is more of a partnership; a collaboration.

Students will notify the administration on walk-outs they are planning and seek their response and/or support. It is an unusual dynamic that has created a very bright, caring and passionate group of students who are plugged into today’s social and political issues.

Mia Aleman &
lexis Alvarado

Students, Lamar Academy

Eduardo Rivas

Students, Lamar Academy

Eduardo Rivas

Students, Lamar Academy

David Li

Students, Lamar Academy


One thing is certain, every school has their own policy concerning First Amendment Rights of students. Some student papers enjoy no prior review and prior restraint. Others do not. Some schools support student causes that may include a walk-out. Others, view it as a challenge to authority.

Whatever the school’s attitude is toward First Amendment Rights, it’s dictated by the administration of that school. Here are some views shared by administration and counselors concerning their policy, attitudes and beliefs concerning these rights.

Vivian Tamez

CAS Coordinator, Lamar Academy

Vivian Tamez

CAS Coordinator, Lamar Academy

Jeanette Nino

Principal, Lamar Academy

Qualimetra Chapman

School Counselor

Jim Walsh

His law firm primarily represents public school districts.

These are his thoughts on First Amendment Rights as it pertains to the school setting.

We have a strong government that maintains order and at the same time guarantees every individual in the country certain freedoms. It starts with the First Amendment which guarantees, by Constitutional Right, that individuals have the right of free speech, the right of freedom of the press, the right to associate with groups they want to associate with, and the right to practice a religion, or not practice a religion.

All of these freedoms are strongly defended Constitutional Rights that every individual has. However, these are all in the context of a government that serves all of us.

questions covered:

Q1: How do you balance the roles of limited government and the rule of law in the protection of individual rights?

Q2: Define inalienable rights

Q3: Define the rights secured by the Constitutional Amendments

Q4: Recall the conditions that produced the 14th Amendment

Q5: Analyze a few Supreme Court interpretations of rights guaranteed by the Constitution.

Q6: Are there any public schools that are having or endorsing prayer today?

Q7: Are new teachers trained on student First Amendment Rights and what is appropriate in the school setting?

questions covered:

Q1: Explain the First and Second Amendments and their commitment to individual liberty.

Q2: Talk about the Tinker v. Des Moines case.

Q3: Is the protection of First Amendment Rights a judgment call by administration?

Q4: Could we ever clearly define First Amendment Rights at school?

questions covered:

Q1: Will a principal call you directly to ask how they should handle a situation?

Q2: Does the Supreme Court usually always rule in favor of students’ First Amendment Rights?

Q3: Can you talk about the New York Times v. U.S. and how it bolstered freedom of the press?

Q4: Analyze of the importance of First Amendment Rights of petition, assembly, speech, and press?

Q5: Do you see a rise of intolerance in this polarizing political climate?

Q6: Are you familiar with any student press cases that went to court?

Q7: Could you define pedagogical?

questions covered:

Q1: Do we get closer to defining student First Amendment Rights with every new Supreme Court decision?

Q2: In what way has Social Media impacted First Amendment Rights for students?

Q3: What advice would you give a teacher that wanted to learn more about First Amendment Rights as it pertains to the school setting?

Q4: When does a school call a lawyer concerning an issue?

Q5: What is your advice to parents who disagree with a teacher’s action?

Q6: Do you feel like we are moving in the right direction for First Amendment Rights in schools?

Q7: Any parting thoughts to people about First Amendment Rights as it relates to schools?

Teaching Guides
armin salek

Law professor at Akins High School in Austin, Texas.

While discussion of controversial topics are common in law classes, Armin rigorously exposes his students to politically charged and racially sensitive issues. He believes meaningful discussions on these topics can help students in their future careers and ultimately, with life in general.

His law degree has given him a strong foundation in guiding students and determining what is appropriate for discussion in his class.

Below are six interview segments with Armin. You’ll also find some helpful quotes broken out below from his interview. Our hope is that his interviews will inspire teachers, administrators, students and parents to listen with an open mind, protect First Amendment Rights and gain insight on setting ground rules for having meaningful discussions in the classroom setting.

Group Shot
questions covered:

Q1: Do you discuss First Amendment Rights in your classroom?

Q2: Have you had any complaints from parents about these tough topics?

Q3: How do you balance complaints from parents with difficult discussions?

Q4: How do you respond to parents when they complain?

Q5: When you present difficult topics, you don’t try to persuade over lead students?

questions covered:

Q1: Do you feel a teacher’s beliefs ever bias their judgement?

Q2: What should a student do if he/she feels their rights are not being honored?

Q3: Tell me a First Amendment Rights topic recently discussed in your classroom.

Q4: How does First Amendment Rights apply here?

These students are going to police officers, correctional officers, and attorneys. They need to be ready. The classroom is the perfect place to expose them to these darker topics.
questions covered:

Q1: Are students required to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance?

Q2: If someone wore a Colin Kaepernick shirt to school, would it be an issue?

Q3: Have you ever seen dissension in a discussion turn hostile in a school setting?

questions covered:

Q1: Why do you think your school embraces First Amendment Rights? Who sets the tone?

Q2: How does your principal handle a complaint from a parent?

Q3: So after that situation, what did your principal do?

questions covered:

Q1: Where did you pick up your good judgment on student First Amendment Rights?

Q2: What advice would you give a teacher who wasn't well versed on First Amendment Rights?

Q3: Do you adults ever feel threatened by a child who has strong convictions?

Q4: Do you feel open dialogue fosters growth?

questions covered:

Q1: Do you feel the younger generation is mobilizing and rallying around good causes?

Q2: Any advice to new teachers?

Q3: How do you get students to listen with an open mind to an opposing view?

Q4: Any advice to students who might be considering dissension in school?

We talk about gun violence, the line between black lives matter and blue lives matter, violence, murder and homicide. Of course, sometimes we want to protect our students from those issues, but we need to address them for their career prospects and because they will be faced with issues like this in their careers.

National Coalition Against Censorship.

This website has a comprehensive section on First Amendment Rights in schools with a rich, detailed set of articles that specifically speak these rights in the school setting.

The ACLU is perhaps the most widely known for activism in student rights. This site is has very informative guidance of many of the questions, students, teachers, administration and parents have when it comes to situations involving rights in the school setting.

This site discusses the four landmark cases the Supreme Court of the United States ruled on and provided guidance for First Amendment Rights in the schools.

Facts and case summary for Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier.
This site breaks down this landmark Supreme Court ruling on this case between student journalism and the principal of the school.

Facts and case summary for Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier. This site breaks down this landmark Supreme Court ruling on this case between student journalism and the principal of the school.

This site analyses the impact of the Supreme Court ruling on Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier – stating it has been sheer devastation for student journalism.

Article that poses the question and opinion on, “Do students still have free speech in school?”

Article of First Amendment protections for teachers in the school setting.