Essay On Freedom Of Speech In School

Free Speech Zones Essay

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Benjamin Franklin once said, “Without freedom of thought, there can be no such thing as wisdom; and no such thing as public liberty, without freedom of speech.” Indeed, free speech is a large block upon which this nation was first constructed, and remains a hard staple of America today; and in few places is that freedom more often utilized than on a college campus. However, there are limitations to our constitutional liberties on campus and they, most frequently, manifest themselves in the form of free speech zones, hate speech and poor university policy. Most school codes are designed to protect students, protect educators and to promote a stable, non-disruptive and non-threatening learning environment. However, students’ verbal freedom…show more content…

Benjamin Franklin once said, “Without freedom of thought, there can be no such thing as wisdom; and no such thing as public liberty, without freedom of speech.” Indeed, free speech is a large block upon which this nation was first constructed, and remains a hard staple of America today; and in few places is that freedom more often utilized than on a college campus. However, there are limitations to our constitutional liberties on campus and they, most frequently, manifest themselves in the form of free speech zones, hate speech and poor university policy. Most school codes are designed to protect students, protect educators and to promote a stable, non-disruptive and non-threatening learning environment. However, students’ verbal freedom becomes limited via “free speech zones.” Free Speech Zones are areas allocated for the purpose of free speech on campus. These zones bypass our constitutional right to freedom of speech by dictating where and when something can be said, but not what can be said. Many college campuses restrict free speech solely to these areas, meaning that the rest of campus is not open for expression. The purpose of this paper is to explore the topic of freedom of speech and free speech zones on college campuses. This paper will answer the questions: Why have so many Universities who protect academic freedom, retreat into fear of freedom? Are school officials afraid of debate and disagreement? Are they trying to keep people (outside the zone) from

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Should schools have the right to limit students' freedom of speech?

Are we teaching children to accept a government that silences them or are some limits necessary to establish order in the classroom?

That's the topic being tackled by middle school students in SpeakFirst's debate tournament on Saturday. And we thought it was a pretty good idea for AL.combat too.

This week, our featured combatants will be accompanied by student debaters offering their perspectives on the issue.

Read the opening arguments and join the conversation in the comments section and on social media, using the hashtag #ALcombat.

John Hammontree (@JohnHammontree): We accept that schools limit free speech; it's a matter of how far we stretch it

John Hammontree is an Opinions & Commentary Writer for AL.com
 

From the moment they enter kindergarten, children are taught to respect the rules of the classroom. Walk quietly through the halls; don't talk during nap time; don't speak unless you're called upon by the teacher; don't lie or cheat or throw a tantrum to get your way.

These are the stakes we accept for our children because they are the steps necessary to keep (increasingly) large groups of five year old children on task.

They're also a limit to freedom of speech. The Constitution obviously doesn't guarantee a freedom of speech to whichever 5th grader is holding a conch shell. It's guaranteed for everyone.

So, by default, we accept that schools can place certain limits on students' freedoms. So the question before us is... how willing are we to stretch those limits?

I'll admit that I'm torn. In theory, grade school presents an opportunity to present children with some standards of ethical behavior - don't use slurs, don't mask ad hominem attacks as ideas, accept criticism and keep an open mind. But, in reality, each school could establish a different metric for what speech is allowed and what speech is banned. One can envision a school that bans spoken prayer in the cafeteria (nearly) as easily as one can envision a school banning the use of homophobic and racial slurs.

With thousands of schools nationwide, there'd be no consistency of enforcement. And yet... maybe that's okay.

If part of the purpose of grade school education is to prepare children for the real world, then they should be ready for the fact that their employers have some ability to limit their freedom of speech. That's the part that people forget about the First Amendment - it may guarantee that the government can't punish you over speech but that doesn't mean your boss won't fire you over an errant Tweet or voice mail. And different employers will have different standards for behavior.

It's not a pretty lesson, but it's one rooted in the real world.

D'Koreyah Williams and Mykail Moore, students at Putnam Middle School: Schools have obligation to shield students from bullying and harassment

We agree with the resolution that schools should be able to limit students' freedom of speech for the following reasons.

Reason one: schools should be able to limit students' freedom of speech in order to protect students from bullying and harassment. One study reported in the Los Angeles Times shows that students who are bullied are 60% more likely to have mental health issues as adults than kids who have been physically abused. Another report from UCLA says that students get much lower grades if they are bullied. On average their GPA goes down by 1.5 points in their class. We should allow schools to limit students freedom of speech in order to prevent abuse and promote learning.

Reason two: schools should limit students' freedom of speech to limit classroom disruptions. A report by the BBC tells us that students can lose up to one hour a day or 38 days a year worth of schooling due to lower level disruptions. We should not take away time to learn just so kids can say whatever they want.

Chuck Dean (@charlesjdean) : We can show a better commitment to freedom of speech for adults by extending it to children

Chuck Dean is a columnist for AL.com. (File photo)
 

I've helped raise two children through the harrowing times of their teen years where on any given day what they might say, do, wear  or write caused me to contemplate locking them away until they were responsible adults.

But then I always remembered how often that term "responsible adult" is an oxymoron: Being an adult and responsible is not some automatic outcome of the aging process.

Some adults of 45 appear at times to be no more responsible in what they say, do, wear or write than a kid at 15. If we are going to argue that older age confers a greater right to free speech and expression than exists at say 14, 15, 16 or 17 then I would refer you to the United States Congress, the Alabama Legislature and sometimes my column as proof that with age does not necessarily come responsible words, deeds or t-shirts conveying sage advice.

Alabamian and U.S. Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black once famously said that that "no law means no law" when interpreting the First Amendment 's guarantees of freedom of religion, speech and press.

Almost 50 years ago the Supreme Court ruled that a student's First Amendment rights do not cease to exist when they enter the schoolhouse gate. Since that ruling the Supreme Court has put some limits on student speech.

I think youth has a lot to say to us. And yes, much of what they might say can be hard to stomach. And much of it can lack the knowledge that experience brings. But they see us and our world with fresh eyes and sometimes new insights.

If we believe in what the First Amendment says, then how better to teach its values than to practice it.  We teach by example. Limit free speech to the young and what are we teaching? But extend it to our young and we teach that those words in our Constitution live and they mean what they say for all of us.

Ashleigh Richardson, student at Wilkerson Middle School: Students need to learn to voice opinions

Schools should not be allowed to limit a student's freedom of speech since students need to learn how to voice their opinions. Students do not give up their right at the schoolhouse gate and the school board needs to learn that totalitarianism doesn't make anything better.

A child's voice is a major factor to the world's future. Limiting a child's freedom of speech will take a step into totalitarianism for teachers and board directors. As defined in the encyclopedia, "Totalitarianism is basically denial of liberty. Its chief objectives are to rule unimpeded by legal restraint, civic pluralism, and party competition, and to refashion human nature itself." Giving the school board and its employees the right to limit a child's freedom of speech is like implementing totalitarianism in schools.

A child's freedom of speech is a precious thing. Taking that away for them will only lead to future problems. It will not lead to success nor will it lead to an advance in the society. But it will lead to society's plummeting.

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