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For many years, the Supreme Court and lower courts have been struggling to protect students' free speech rights while allowing school officials to operate schools efficiently and effectively. In the past this balance was struck in favor of protecting students' rights by only allowing regulations that are necessary to avoid substantial disruption to the school environment. For the past fourteen years, however, the balance has been struck in favor of schools and against protecting students' rights by upholding the regulations of school officials as long as they are reasonable. This lower standard of scrutiny for school regulations imposed on students gives much deference to school authorities to determine what regulations are appropriate and allows regulations that greatly restrict students' rights of free speech. This comment examines how federal courts have become increasingly less vigilant about protecting the free speech rights of students of all ages. Part I presents a historical review of Supreme Court cases that granted broad freedom of speech to students. Part II introduces more recent Supreme Court cases that have restricted students' free speech rights. Part Ill examines the effects that the more recent Supreme Court decisions have had on lower courts deciding cases regarding freedom of speech in schools. Part IV discusses how the public forum doctrine has been utilized by the Supreme Court and lower federal courts as a means of reducing students' free speech rights. Part V analyzes the earliest to the most recent cases regarding student speech, and demonstrates how federal courts have become less willing to protect the free speech rights of students. Finally, Part VI proposes solutions that will help strengthen students' freedom of speech despite the recent federal court decisions that have been unwilling to do so.

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College of Law






Northern Illinois University Law Review

Suggested Citation

Heather K. Lloyd, Comment, Injustice in Our Schools: Students' Free Speech Rights Are Not Being Vigilantly Protected, 21 N. Ill. U. L. Rev. 265 (2001).

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