and private universities, including Michigan University, Haverford College, andSwarthmore College. First, I will examine the free speech rights of high school students,college students, and college professors, and the limits of those rights; then I willinvestigate the overt and covert rationales for speech codes and the characteristics thatdetermine whether a speech code is legal or illegal; and finally, I will review the ethicaland practical arguments for and against speech codes and make suggestions as to howcolleges and high schools can implement sane speech policies. What I have found is that,so long as speech is not unduly disruptive, high school students, college students, andcollege professors alike have a right to say what they believe even if others consider their speech to be offensive. Speech codes in high schools and public universities that try torestrict speech on the grounds that it may offend others are unconstitutional andimpractical. The best speech policies are narrowly constructed to encourage toleranceand respect in the academic community while affirming a commitment to academicfreedom in ideas, art, and political expression.
PART 1: Speech Rights and Limitations in Academic Settings
High school students have constitutionally protected speech rights. In WestVirginia State Board of Education v. Barnette (1943), the Supreme Court ruled thatelementary and high-school students have a right not to salute the American flag and notto say the pledge of allegiance. The precedent established by that ruling is that schoolscannot compel the speech of students. In Tinker v. Des Moines School District (1969),the Supreme Court ruled that elementary and high-school students have a right to peacefully protest in school with armbands, leaflets, polls, petitions, underground2