Supreme Court ruled students do not “shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate”

Curtis Rhodes, Needville Independent School District’s Superintendent, wrote in a now-deleted Facebook post:

Please be advised that the Needville [Independent School District] will not allow a student demonstration during school hours for any type of protest or awareness!! Should students choose to do so, they will be suspended from school for 3 days and face all the consequences that come along with an out of school suspension. Life is all about choices and every choice has a consequence whether it be positive or negative. We will discipline no matter if it is one, fifty, or five hundred students involved…A disruption of the school will not be tolerated…we are here for an education and not a political protest.”

The question of whether students can protest during school hours was in fact addressed by the U.S. Supreme Court nearly half a century ago. And, in light of that case, legal experts tell TIME that, because it’s so broad, the Needville policy as expressed in the Facebook message is likely unconstitutional.

In 1969, the court ruled that students do not “shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate,” as Justice Abe Fortas put it in the majority opinion for Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District.

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