• Do tickets for cussing at school violate free speech?

    Date: 02.05.14 | by Judge Tom.

    This is an issue under consideration at the Maize Unified School District in Kansas. The policy allows police officers on campus to give students tickets if their language causes a “substantial disruption at school.” This sounds similar to the Tinker disruption test created by the Supreme Court in 1969. The tickets may result in a $50.00 fine. In the 2013¬†fall semester,¬†four students were ticketed.

    There are two issues to be considered here. First is the school’s right to maintain a safe learning environment for all students and staff. Courts have ruled that discipline may be imposed for disruptive speech – that is, speech that incites violence, for example, or encourages breaking the law. Speech that is contrary to the educational mission of the school may be regulated. That includes speech that promotes drug use, weapons on campus or sexual behavior.

    Mark G. Stohl (Flickr)

    Mark G. Stohl (Flickr)

    The other side of this profanity ban is whether the school can criminalize such speech. There’s a difference between the school disciplining a student for cussing and law enforcement issuing a citation that brings the student into the legal system.

    What do you think? Should a student be sent to juvenile court for swearing on campus? Also, how does one decide when there’s a “substantial disruption at school” due to a student’s language? Isn’t this a subjective decision?

    Judge Tom

    This post was written by Judge Tom. Judge Tom is the founder and moderator of AsktheJudge.info. He is a retired juvenile judge and spent 23 years on the bench. He has written several books for lawyers and judges as well as teens and parents including the recently published 'Teen Cyberbullying Investigated' (Free Spirit Publishing). When he's not answering teens' questions, Judge Tom can be found hiking, traveling and reading.

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    • Do tickets for cussing at school violate free speech? | Law Offices of David R. Bach, P.C.
      Wed, 05 Feb 2014 at 05:33

      […] Do tickets for cussing at school violate free speech? […]