Thursday, November 14, 2013

Morse v. Frederick case brief

Morse v. Frederick case brief summary
127 S. Ct. 2618 (2007)

Petitioners, a school principal and a school board, sought certiorari review of a judgment from the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, which reversed the district court's ruling that petitioners were entitled to qualified immunity in respondent student's 42 U.S.C.S. § 1983 action alleging a violation of his free speech rights under the First Amendment.

The student was suspended from school after he refused the principal's direction to take down a banner that he unfurled at a school-sponsored and school-supervised event. The principal directed the student to take the banner down because the banner appeared to advocate illegal drug use in violation of school policy. The school board upheld the student's suspension. The Ninth Circuit found a First Amendment violation because the school officials punished the student without demonstrating that his speech gave rise to a risk of substantial disruption.


  • The Court, however, held that the school officials did not violate the First Amendment by confiscating the pro-drug banner and suspending the student. 
  • The Court concluded that the "substantial disruption" rule of Tinker was not the only basis for restricting student speech. 
  • Considering the special characteristics of the school environment and the governmental interest in stopping student drug abuse, the Court held that schools were entitled to take steps to safeguard those entrusted to their care from speech that could reasonably be regarded as encouraging illegal drug use.
The Court reversed the judgment of the Ninth Circuit and it remanded the action for further proceedings.

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