Argued: Mar 3, 1986
Decided: Jul 7, 1986
William A. Coats argued the cause for the petitioners
Jeffrey T. Haley argued the cause for the respondents
The Court found that it was appropriate for the school to prohibit the use of vulgar and offensive language. Chief Justice Burger distinguished between political speech which the Court previously protected in Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District (1969) supposed to the sexual content of Fraser's message. In his opinion Frasers right to freedom of speech was not White, Powell, Rehuguest, and O'Conner JJ., agreed.
I find it difficult to believe that it is the same speech the Court describes. To my mind, school officials have to teach high school students how to conduct civil and effective public discourse, and to prevent disruption of school educational activities, it was not unconstitutional for school officials to conclude, under the circumstances of this case, that respondent's remarks exceeded permissible limits.
Marshall, J., Dissenting Opinion
I dissent from the Court's decision, however, because, in my view, the School District failed to demonstrate that respondent's remarks were indeed disruptive. The District Court and Court of Appeals conscientiously applied Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School Distract (1969), and concluded that the School District had not demonstrated any disruption of the educational process. I recognize that the school administration must be given wide latitude to determine what forms of conduct are inconsistent with the school's educational mission; nevertheless, where speech is involved, we may not unquestioningly accept a teacher's or administrator's assertion that certain pure speech interfered with education.
Stevens J, dissenting.
"Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn."
When I was a high school student, the use of those words in a public forum shocked the Nation. Today Clark Gable's four-letter expletive is less offensive than it was then. Nevertheless, I assume that high school administrators may prohibit the use of that word in classroom discussion and even in extracurricular activities that are sponsored by the school and held on school premises. For I believe a school faculty must regulate the content as well as the style of student speech in carrying out its educational mission. It does seem to me, however, that, if a student is to be punished for using offensive speech, he is entitled to fair notice of the scope of the prohibition and the consequences of its violation