Essay: Freedom of Speech

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¶ … Freedom of Speech

One of the main issues facing every society at large and every representation of society in microcosm -- such as the classroom -- is the balancing of the rights of the group with the rights of the individual. Safety is paramount for everyone at every level of society; the protection of life, limb, and property must be the most vital service provided by authority, as without these things all other rights are meaningless. At the same time, others of these rights are of immense importance. In a learning environment, rights to certain freedoms -- such as the freedom of speech -- are essential to the successful fulfillment of the educational goal, but at times it can be difficult to balance the Constitutionally protected right of freedom of speech with the safety and progress of the classroom as a whole. In Tinker v. Des Moines, the Supreme Court ruled that students do not "shed their constitutional rights when they enter the schoolhouse door," but at the same time school administrators and teachers have traditionally held a greater ability to restrict speech than other governmental authority figures (Linder, 2009).

As a teacher, there are certain rights and responsibilities I have in regards to my students to ensure their safety and an effective education, while at the same time attempting to provide an environment where the Constitutional and, I believe, moral right to free expression is nurtured and protected. There have always been instances in this country where it was deemed acceptable or even necessary to abridge the right to freedom of speech, from the various sedition acts to the "clear and present danger" criteria established by Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes. Thus, I can without compunction or hesitation say that no student's right to freedom of speech is absolute, and there are many directly related cases even from the current decade that suggest that the Supreme Court and many school administrators are in agreement with me (ACLU, 2009).

Students have the right to express any ideas they may hold, so long as they do not promote any illegal or harmful activities, and are not intended to cause emotional harm to other members of the faculty or the student body. Instances that fall under the umbrella of inciting illegal or harmful activities tend to be fairly clear-cut; the advocacy of drug use -- even in a humorous fashion -- is not appropriate free speech in a school setting or even school-related event any more than an incitement to violence would be, as the Supreme Court ruling in Morse v. Frederick clearly illustrates (ACLU, 2009). Students do not have the right to threaten violence nor persuade others to perform it, either, just as interpretations of current law have banned such speech (Linder, 2009). These are the clear limitations on free speech by students, and they are basically the same as the limits on free speech in the rest of adult society.

I believe… [END OF PREVIEW]

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Cite This Essay:

APA Format

Freedom of Speech.  (2009, February 21).  Retrieved October 16, 2019, from

MLA Format

"Freedom of Speech."  21 February 2009.  Web.  16 October 2019. <>.

Chicago Format

"Freedom of Speech."  February 21, 2009.  Accessed October 16, 2019.