Student Speech Cheat Sheet


By Freedom Forum

Do students have freedom of expression rights at school?

Absolutely! Public school students have a range of free-expression rights under the First Amendment. Students can speak, write articles, assemble to form groups and even petition school officials on issues.

However, these rights don’t apply to private school students. The First Amendment limits the government from infringing on an individual’s rights. Public school officials act as part of the government, so they must follow the principles of the First Amendment. Private schools, however, aren’t arms of the government.

Can public schools impose dress codes and uniforms?

Yes, they can as long as the dress code is enforced equally across the student body. Even though clothing is a form of free expression, schools can regulate what students wear.

However, if your school is enforcing the dress code for some students and not for others, that could be a violation of your First Amendment rights to free speech and expression.

Does a public school have the right to prohibit students from wearing hats in school?

Yes, public schools could institute a no-hat policy as part of their dress code. Like the rest of the dress code policies, it would have to be enforced equally across the student body. The one exception schools would likely make is around religious headwear like a hijab.

Can students wear clothing with profanity?

No. Public school officials can prohibit students from wearing clothing with profane messages.

Do students have to stand and remove their hats during the pledge?

No, you do not have to stand and remove your hat during the Pledge of Allegiance.

No government official at any level can force conduct from any citizen regarding an expression of religion, politics, nationalism or matter of opinion.

Can a public school exclude certain student clubs or groups?

No, a public school may not pick and choose which student groups it wishes to allow. A school would violate the First Amendment if it censored certain student groups based on their viewpoints.

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