Bethel School District v. Fraser

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The Bethel School District v. Fraser, (478 U. S. 675) case was the issue of school disciplinarians not knowing if they were allowed to punish a student for making unseemly comments during a speech at a school assembly or if he was protected by his right to freedom of speech stated in the First Amendment.

In 1986 Matthew Fraser, a senior at Bethel High School, located in Bethel, Washington, spoke to a school assembly to promote the election of a classmate of his for the student government. The speech he gave was filled with suggestive and inappropriate undertones, though it contained no direct violations of rules against obscenities. Fraser's candidate was elected with votes from most of the student body, but Fraser himself was suspended from school for three days' time and was stripped of his chance to make a remark at his graduation ceremony. At the time he was second in his class. His parents were outraged and accused the school board of violating his freedom of speech. The Washington Supreme Court agreed that Fraser's rights had indeed been violated so the school appealed to the U. S. Supreme Court. The Court had before said that students did not leave their constitutional rights at the school doors in the ''Tinker v. Des Moines Independent School Board''. The Court majority supported the school district that children are not permitted to express themselves in such strong terms in a public school. Chief Justice Burger stated that there's a difference between the Tinker protest that ruled students were permitted to wear black armbands to school to protest the Vietnam War and the case at hand asking to dismiss a lewd speech Fraser had given. Burger, when speaking on behalf of the majority ruling against Fraser said,
"The purpose of public education in America is to teach fundamental values."
He continued,
"These fundamentals...must... include consideration of the political sensibilities of other students."

Justice Warren Burger delivered the opinion of the court, joined by justices Byron White, Lewis Powell, William Rehnquist, and Sandra Day O'Connor. Justices William Brennan and Harry Blackmun concurred. Justices Thurgood Marshall and John Paul Stevens filed dissenting opinions.


External links

  • Case at FindLaw (registration may be required)