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Should Courts Ban Demeaning Speech in Schools? The Ninth Circuit’s Controversial Anti-Gay T-Shirt Case


by Richard Fossey & Todd A. DeMitchell — December 18, 2006

Free speech in the schools can have a bruising quality. The Ninth Circuit was correct when it said that in some instances student speech can be psychologically painful to others—especially vulnerable students like the gay and lesbian students that Tye Harper’s T-shirt criticized. But it is a very dangerous thing for a court to allow schools to propound the officially approved viewpoint on a particular controversial topic and then censor the views of those who disagree. We believe that the Supreme Court should accept Tye Harper’s appeal and restore the proper balance that Tinker established over 35 years ago between the student’s right to speak on unpopular topics and the school’s legitimate interest to maintain a proper educational environment for those same students.


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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record, Date Published: December 18, 2006
http://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 12897, Date Accessed: 12/16/2017 12:31:45 AM

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About the Author
  • Richard Fossey
    University of North Texas
    E-mail Author
    RICHARD FOSSEY teaches education law and higher education law at the University of North Texas and directs the Texas Higher Education Law Conference at the University. He has a law degree from the University of Texas School of Law and a doctorate in education policy from Harvard University. Prior to entering the field of higher education, he practiced education law in Alaska, representing school districts in Aleut, Athabaskan, and Inuit communities.
  • Todd DeMitchell
    University of New Hampshire
    E-mail Author
    TODD A. DEMITCHELL is Professor and Kimball Fellow, Department of Education & Justice Studies Program at the University of New Hampshire. He studies school law, educational policy, and collective bargaining. He has published three books and over 120 articles, book chapters, and essays. Prior to joining the faculty in higher education he spent 18 years in the public schools as a substitute teacher, teacher, assistant principal, principal, director of personnel & labor relations and superintendent.
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