Ken Mauldin: Students have no 1st Amendment rights to walkout
March 15, 2018
As our nation and community engage in important conversations about national policy, students have participated in mass walkouts of classrooms in support of public policy positions. We experienced this student activity in our own community as students left classrooms and assembled outside the schools to exchange ideas on policy.
In light of the Superintendent’s Office posting an open letter to the community on the district website suggesting that these student protests are protected by the First Amendment and the district is bound to allow the assemblies, I would like to share what the United States Supreme Court has determined regarding the First Amendment protections of students within a school.
In the landmark educational case of Tinker v. Des Moines Independent School District (1969), the U.S. Supreme Court clarified that students wearing armbands as a protest to the Vietnam War was an expression protected by the First Amendment on the basis that “They neither interrupted school activities nor sought to intrude in the school affairs or the lives of others.” Tinker also clarified “conduct” that “materially and substantially interferes” with the operation of the school is expressly not protected by the First Amendment.
The recent student protest in our community involved the actions of students leaving class for a political assembly and creating such an interference in the daily operations of the school that the high school campus had to be temporarily closed to visitors out of concerns for student safety.
Students have absolutely no First Amendment right to engage in activities that involve leaving class, disrupting school operations and creating safety issues on campus.
It’s unfortunate that our district officials and administrators, who are entrusted with teaching our children civics and maintaining order on campus, would so dramatically misrepresent the First Amendment rights of students and allow students to disrupt the daily operations of our schools.
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