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Portfolio Assignment #4 1

Portfolio Assignment #4

Portfolio Assignment #4

Jodie Robinson
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Students Rights and Responsibilities

When it comes to constitutional rights, teachers are not the only ones who have some

protection. Students are also supported with freedom of speech, due process, equal protection,

and several others. Because of these rights, schools can have a difficult time in balancing these

entitlements. In this case, a student named Bill Foster was suspended for wearing an earring to

school. The school at this time was suffering from gang activity so the school banned all jewelry

and accessories that could be gang related. Bill, however, said his earring was a fashion statement

and the suspension violated his freedom of expression. By looking at past cases, one can see pros

and cons when dealing with a students First Amendment rights.

The U.S. Constitution applies to students as well as adults. By proving that some of his

constitutional rights were violated, Bill Foster and his family can easily win their case against his

school district. One of the cases that originally started students rights was Tinker v. Des Moines

Independent School District. In this case, 2 students were prohibited from wearing black

armbands to school to protest the Vietnam conflict in 1965 (First Amendment Center, 1999). The

students were able to prove that wearing the armbands caused no disruption to the school

environment and the school was violated their freedom of expression. This case is a supreme

example the Foster family can use as a guide in proving that their sons constitutional rights were


Another example supporting students rights is the case Rutherford Institute v. Morgan

Hill Unified School District. In this case, students were sent home because they wore American

flag t-shirts on Cinco de Mayo (Education Law, 2011). The students claimed the school violated

their freedom of expression rights and by proving this; they were able to win their case. The court

even told the school district that students do not lose their first amendment rights just because
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they are attending school. With Bill Fosters case, as long as he is able to prove that his

constitutional rights were violated, he will be able to win his case.

Even though students do have constitutional rights, the school district can prove that it

disrupts the school environment and therefore cant be tolerated. In the case Hazlewood School

District v. Kuhlmeier, students published a school article on pregnancy and divorce which listed

names of teachers and students throughout the article (FindLaw, 2014). The principle censored

the article and the students ended up suing the school district. The students lost their case

because the principle was able to prove that the school article was a school-sponsored activity

and school officials may censor it as they see fit. By giving a list of names in the article, the

principle was able to prove that this disrupted the learning environment and therefore win the


Another example in which the school was able to prove their case was Oleson v. Board of

Education of Sch. Dist., No. 228. This case is extremely similar to that of Billy Foster and can be

used against him to the schools benefit. In this example, a student brought a lawsuit against the

school board policy that male students cannot wear earrings due to high gang activity in the area

(First Amendment Center, 1999). The student claimed that the rule violated his free speech and

free exercise rights. The school, however, was able to prove the high level of gang activity and

violence in the school and ultimately won their case. The court told the student that the dress

code policy is in best interests for the students and therefore does not violate the First


Overall, a students rights and responsibilities can easily be overlooked when it involves the

students freedom of expression, but in the case of Bill Foster, I believe that the school district

acted appropriately and in the best interests of the student. By providing evidence of the gang
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activity in that area and school, the dress code policy was put in place to protect the students and

lower the gang violence. When it comes to the safety and learning environment of the students, I

believe that certain First Amendment rights can be overruled.

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Education Law and Students Rights (2011). Freedom of Expression Court Case. Retrieved from



FindLaw (2014). Free Speech Lawsuits involving Public Schools. Retrieved from http:


First Amendment Center (1999). First Amendment Schools. Retrieved from https: