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The Silent Protest

Students Against War v. Liberty High School


TEACHER PACKET: The Silent Protest Case - includes petitioner, respondent, justices, marshal & clerk script and materials.

WORD File / PDF File


CASE FACTS:

Last October, three students at Liberty High School decided to protest the war in Afghanistan by wearing black armbands. The students informed the principal ahead of time that they would be wearing armbands, and the principal told them it was not a good idea.  Upon hearing the news of a possible student protest using armbands, the school developed a policy prohibiting students from wearing armbands.

The next week, the students entered class wearing plain black armbands about an inch wide on their right arms.  Upon seeing these students, the principal had them brought to the office immediately.  The students were suspended from school for two weeks for breaking school rules.

The three students filed a lawsuit claiming that their silent protest was protected under the Free Speech clause of the First Amendment and that stopping it was illegal. The students felt that the school had violated their constitutional rights.

TRIAL COURT PROCEEDINGS & RULING:
At trial, the school argued that the principal’s action was reasonable because the protest would disrupt other students’ education.  The trial court judge said that the suspension did not violate the First Amendment and that the principal’s concern that the armbands might cause trouble was reasonable.

THE APPEAL:
The students appealed this decision to the District Court of Appeal, which affirmed (agreed with) the trial court’s decision and said the school could stop students from wearing arm bands as a form of protest.

The students appealed the district court’s decision to the Florida Supreme Court, which now stands ready to hear arguments on both sides of this issue.

Constitutional Question the Justices Must Answer:

Did the school violate the students’ First Amendment right to free speech by stopping their silent protest?

RESOURCES & BACKGROUND MATERIALS:

Based on the United States Supreme Court Case Tinker v. Des Moines School District (1969).