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Beyond the Schoolhouse Gate

Beyond the Schoolhouse Gate: Free Speech and the Inculcation of Values

Robert Wheeler Lane
Copyright Date: 1995
Published by: Temple University Press
Pages: 224
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  • Book Info
    Beyond the Schoolhouse Gate
    Book Description:

    Outstanding Academic Title, Choice, 1995 "What makes Lane's approach unique is that he weaves together different perspectives on the nature of school into a very colorful but informative and lucid tapestry that seeks the outer limits of free expression within the boundaries of the school context, always with an eye toward promoting the goal of inculcation of values, a worthy end for students and school officials alike." --Samuel M. Davis, Allen Post Professor of Law, University of Georgia *In a 1969 landmark case, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the suspension of student for protesting the Vietnam War violated the First Amendment. *In 1972, the U.S. court of appeals upheld the suspension of black high school students for protesting the playing of "Dixie" at a pep rally. *In 1986, a U.S. district court ruled that the suspension of a student for directing a vulgar gesture at one of his school teachers in a fast-food restaurant was unconstitutional. On what grounds do public school students merit First Amendment protection? These three examples illustrate the broad range of litigation that has attempted to answer this question. Robert Wheeler Lane reviews the obstacles of this important issue and suggests a mix of protection and autonomy for students. Pulling together evidence about the aims of public education, the changing legal status of children, and the values underlying freedom of expression, Lane debates the relationship between constitutional litigation and the dual pursuits of academic excellence and classroom order. Ultimately, utilizing both lower court and Supreme Court decisions, he finds that independent student expression deserves considerable constitutional protection; student expression assisted by school officials (such as school-funded student newspapers) should be subject to some control; and nonstudent expression (such as a school's selection of library books) should be left largely to the school's discretion. His conclusions suggest that in forging First Amendment protection for public school students, strongly held positions need not be extreme.

    eISBN: 978-1-4399-0345-2
    Subjects: Education, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. One Pursuing Excellence and Order
    (pp. 1-14)

    To protest their nation’s involvement in the Vietnam War, three Des Moines, Iowa, students arrived at school in December 1965 wearing black armbands. School officials promptly suspended them for violating a recently adopted policy prohibiting such actions. The United States Supreme Court, in a landmark 1969 case, held that the suspensions violated the First Amendment.¹

    During a pep rally at an Arkansas high school in 1968, twenty-nine black students walked out of the gymnasium to protest the playing of “Dixie.” They were subsequently suspended by school officials, and the students brought action charging that the suspensions violated their First Amendment...

  5. Tvvo The Emergence of Children’s Rights
    (pp. 15-46)

    To understand the difficulty of forging constitutional rights for adolescents, we must appreciate the tension between social integration and individual autonomy. As a semiautonomous stage of development, adolescence is both a period in itself and a transitional time of trial and error.¹ Franklin Zimring notes the disjuncture between the static legal position of adolescents and the contours of this stage:

    As a period of semi-autonomy, it places special burdens on legal reasoning and public choice. As a transition to adulthood, it demands a future orientation in public policy. How we grow up is an important determinant of what kinds of...

  6. Three Free Speech and Public Education
    (pp. 47-66)

    How congruent are the aims of public education and free-speech principles? What problems arise in reconciling the inculcative function (the transmission of values) of public schooling with free speech? Commentators often find this relationship adversarial, so that advancing one requires hindering the other. David Diamond, for example, exalts the inculcative function and argues that, since the principal business of public education is indoctrination, our public schools embody the denial of First Amendment rights.¹ Conversely, another commentator concludes that the severe conflict between free speech and inculcation requires school officials to abandon the latter.² Even those who try to reconcile free...

  7. Four A Focused Balancing Alternative
    (pp. 67-82)

    Building a principled foundation for extending First Amendment protection to public school students requires an examination of the types of First Amendment problems confronting the federal courts and the prevailing doctrines employed by the bench to resolve them. This foundation also requires replacing public forum analysis with a “focused balancing” alternative. Finally, we need to clarify what we mean by “student speech.”

    There are three basic types of First Amendment problems. One concerns the complete prohibition of a message or a category of speech, where the state restricts ideas or information. For example, government officials may censor publications critical of...

  8. Five Tolerating Student Speech
    (pp. 83-102)

    Student free-speech disputes, in large measure, arise in three contexts. Some disputes concern the refusal by school officials to permit or tolerate certain speech. Others involve incidents in which school officials decline to associate the public schools with certain types of student speech. A third area relates to efforts by school officials to control student access to adult expression. These three categories of disputes are distinguished by what students ask (or demand) of school officials. These categorical distinctions are important, for the character of the dispute shapes the First Amendment protection for student speech.

    Disputes between students and educators often...

  9. Six Assisting Student Expression
    (pp. 103-128)

    Students frequently ask school officials for three kinds of assistance in promoting their ideas and beliefs: funding, faculty supervision, and access to school facilities. Fearing that such assistance associates the school system with controversial, distasteful student speech, school officials deny many of these requests. When they do grant them, administrators usually try to control the content and character, of the student speech. Not surprisingly, their efforts occasionally fuel First Amendment litigation.

    The distinction between officials tolerating and assisting independent student speech is imprecise. Nonetheless, requiring school officials to tolerateTinkerarmbands is different from requiring them to supervise or fund...

  10. Seven Access to Information and Ideas
    (pp. 129-154)

    While toleration and association disputes involve direct student expression, indoctrination disputes consider whether the First Amendment confers upon public school pupils a “right to receive” information and ideas from third parties. The bulk of disputes over such a right concern the removal of books from school libraries.¹

    The United States Supreme Court, in a 1982 plurality ruling, recognized a First Amendment “right to receive” for public school students. This case, entailing seven opinions, merits extensive discussion, for it reflects the precarious nature and character of the right.

    In September 1975 a local school board justified the removal of the following...

  11. Eight A Matter of Degree
    (pp. 155-174)

    Given the dual pursuits of academic excellence and classroom order, educational reform efforts invariably affect the constitutional rights of public school students. Accordingly, the United States Supreme Court has granted them some measure of First Amendment speech protection. Not surprisingly, the Court’s effort displeases both those who oppose extending any constitutional protection to student speech and those who support expansive First Amendment protection for young people.

    In determining what, if any, First Amendment rights students ought to enjoy, it must be recognized that the aims of free speech and public education are both congruent and oppositional. Furthermore, the inculcative function...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 175-206)
  13. Index
    (pp. 207-210)