Case Study 7
Student speech at school assemblies

At a voluntary school assembly, a public high school student delivered a speech nominating a candidate for student government office. The school-sponsored activity was attended during the school day by approximately 600 students, many of whom were 14-year-olds. The student used a graphic, sexual metaphor throughout the speech. The speech began, “I know a man who is firm — he’s firm in his pants, he’s firm in his shirt, his character is firm — but most … of all, his belief in you, the students of Bethel, is firm.”

Prior to the assembly, two teachers had advised the student, Matthew Fraser, not to give the speech because it was inappropriate. The next day the assistant principal notified him that his speech was in violation of the school’s “disruptive-conduct rule.” He was given an opportunity to explain his conduct. After admitting he knew he was using explicit sexual innuendo, Fraser was suspended and his name was removed from the list of potential graduation speakers.

  • Is this speech protected?
  • If not, what harm might occur as a result of the speech?
  • What value or right is conflicting with free speech in this case?