Education Law

Freedom of Expression for Students: FAQs

By E.A. Gjelten, Author and Editor
Answers to frequently asked questions about when and how schools can limit students’ free speech rights on campus, off campus, and online.

The right to free speech, guaranteed by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, is one of this country’s most cherished values. The First Amendment applies when government tries to restrict the expression of ideas and opinions. That includes public schools, because they’re run by governmental agencies. As the U.S. Supreme Court has said, students don’t “shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate.” (Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School Dist., 393 U.S. 503 (1969).)

That doesn’t mean free speech rights are absolute. And courts have allowed more limits on children’s freedom of expression at school than on adults in other settings.

Read on for answers to some of the most common questions about free speech rights at school.

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