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Bethel School District v. Fraser (1986)

A school could suspend a pupil for giving a student government nomination speech full of sexual innuendo and metaphor. “The First Amendment does not [require] school officials…to permit a vulgar and lewd speech [that] would undermine the school’s basic educational mission.”

The same reasoning was applied to a later case involving the free speech rights of public school students, Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier (1988). It clarified the meaning of Tinker v. Des Moines (1969) which addressed students’ rights to passive, individual expression. The decision quoted Hugo Black’s dissent in Tinker v. Des Moines (1969), which asserted that the Constitution does not require “school officials to surrender control of the American public school system to public school students.”

The case touched on constitutional principles including limits on rights, and civic values including moderation, respect, and responsibility.