Student Rights and the Supreme Court

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Minersville v. Gobitis

June 1940

Did the mandatory flag salute infringe upon liberties protected by the First and Fourteenth Amendments?
Court ruled that mandatory flag salute did NOT infringe upon First Amendment liberties.

West Virginia v. Barnette

June 1943

Did the compulsory flag-salute for public schoolchildren violate the First Amendment?
Court ruled that compulsory flag salute for public schoolchildren violated the children's First Amendment freedoms and overturned Gobitis.

McCollum v. Board of Education

March 1948

Did the use of the public school system for religious classes violate the First Amendment's Establishment Clause?
The Court ruled that the use of public school facilities by religious organizations to give religious instruction to schoolchildren violated the Establishment Clause.

Brown v. Board of Education

May 1954

Does the segregation of children in public schools solely on the basis of race deprive the minority children of the equal protection of the laws guaranteed by the 14th Amendment?
Court ruled that separate but equal was inherently unequal. The Court ordered that schools desegregate in a timely fashion.

Engel v. Vitale

June 1962

Does the reading of a nondenominational prayer at the start of the school day violate the "establishment of religion" clause of the First Amendment?
The Court ruled that reading a prayer at the start of the day violated the Establishment Clause and was unconstitutional.

School District of Abington Township v. Schempp

June 1963

Did the Pennsylvania law and Abington's policy, requiring public school students to participate in classroom religious exercises, violate the religious freedom of students as protected by the First and Fourteenth Amendments?
The Court ruled that these religious exercises, reading the Bible, constituted a violation of the First Amendment because they served no secular purpose.

Tinker v. Des Moines

February 1969

Does a prohibition against the wearing of armbands in public school, as a form of symbolic protest, violate the First Amendment's freedom of speech protections?
The Court ruled that students had constitutional rights in school and that school authorities cannot prohibit student expression without evidence that expression would severely disrupt the educational process in schools.

Wisconsin v. Yoder

February 1972

Did Wisconsin's requirement that all parents send their children to school at least until age 16 violate the First Amendment by criminalizing the conduct of parents who refused to send their children to school for religious reasons?
The Court ruled that this violated the First Amendment because it interfered with the rights of Amish parents to direct the religious upbringing of their children.

Goss v. Lopez

January 1975

Did the imposition of the suspensions without preliminary hearings violate the students' Due Process rights guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment?
The Court ruled that the students' Due Process rights were violated and that school authorities cannot suspend students without preliminary hearings.

Ingraham v. Wright

May 1977

Does paddling of students as a means of maintaining school discipline constitute cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment; and to the extent that paddling is constitutionally permissible, does the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment requires prior notice and an opportunity to be heard.
The Court ruled that paddling and corporal punishment did NOT violate the Eighth Amendment's prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment and the students' Due Process rights were NOT violated.

Stone v. Graham

December 1980

Did the Kentucky statute which required a posting of the Ten Commandments in every classroom violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment?
The Court ruled that the Kentucky statute violated the Establishment clause because it served no secular legislative purpose and had a plainly religious purpose.

New Jersey v. T.L.O.

January 1985

Did the search violate the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments?
The Court ruled that school officials only need reasonable cause/suspicion to initiate a search of a student's possessions.

Bethel School District v. Fraser

July 1986

Does the First Amendment prevent a school district from disciplining a high school student for giving a lewd speech at a high school assembly?
The Court ruled that school officials can prohibit the use of vulgar and offensive language. The Court distinguished between political speech (protected) and vulgar/lewd speech (not protected).

Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier

January 1988

Did the principal's deletion of the articles violate the students' rights under the First Amendment?
The Court ruled that school authorities can censor "school-sponsored" speech, such as school newspapers.

Board of Education of Westside Community Schools v. Mergens

June 1990

Was Westside's prohibition against the formation of a Christian club consistent with the Establishment Clause, thereby rendering the Equal Access Act unconstitutional?
The Court ruled that the Equal Access Act did not violate the First Amendment and that the school was not justified in denying the formation of a Christian club. Has been frequently used by Court to defend students' right to form Gay-Straight Alliances.

Lee v. Weisman

June 1992

Does the inclusion of clergy who offer prayers at official public school ceremonies violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment?
The Court ruled that prayer offered at official public school ceremonies violated the Establishment Clause because it creates a state-sponsored and state-directed religious exercise in a public school.

Vernonia School District v. Acton

June 1995

Does random drug testing of high school athletes violate the reasonable search and seizure clause of the Fourth Amendment?
The Court ruled that random drug testing of student athletes did not violate a student's fourth amendment rights.

Santa Fe Independent School District v. Doe

June 2000

Does the Santa Fe Independent School District's policy permitting student-led, student-initiated prayer at football games violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment?
The Court ruled that student-led, student-initiated prayer at football games did violate the First Amendment because football game prayers were public speech authorized by a government policy and taking place on government property at government-sponsored school-related events.

Board of Education v. Earls

June 2002

Is the Student Activities Drug Testing Policy, which requires all students who participate in competitive extracurricular activities to submit to drug testing, consistent with the Fourth Amendment?
The Court ruled that drug testing of students who participate in extracurricular activities did NOT violate the Fourth Amendment.

Morse v. Frederick

June 2007

Does the First Amendment allow public schools to prohibit students from displaying messages promoting the use of illegal drugs at school-supervised events?
The Court ruled that public schools can prohibit students from displaying messages promoting the use of illegal drugs. While students have some right to political speech, that right does not extend to pro-drug messages that may undermine a school's important mission to discourage drug use.

Safford Unified School District v. Redding

June 2009

Does the Fourth Amendment prohibit school officials from strip searching students suspected of possessing drugs in violation of school policy?
The Court ruled that strip searching of students is dependent on the facts of a case. If the school authority has reasonable cause to suspect something, they may authorize a strip search of a student.