30 Years of Hazelwood: Revisiting the First Amendment Rights of Minors in the Education System During the Social Media Age
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In 1969, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled in Tinker v. Des Moines Independent School District that students were entitled to protections of the First Amendment and “do not shed their constitutional rights at the schoolhouse gate”. However, subsequent Supreme Court decisions have chipped away at this protection by granting greater power to school administrators to restrict student liberties. After the Tinker decision, the three most influential cases were Bethel School District v. Fraser, Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier, and Morse v. Frederick, with Hazelwood being the most broad, sweeping restriction on freedom of expression for American students. The Morse decision—the most recent of such cases—was decided in 2007, which predates the expansion of social media and the digital pervasiveness students are familiar with today. Given these new circumstances, the Supreme Court must revisit student free speech rights and err on the side of the Tinker decision and not on the one in Hazelwood. Failure to establish a new precedent in this digital age is bad for both students and administrators. If the Supreme Court remains silent on student rights in the digital age—or worse, if the Court continue to rule in favor of administrators over student freedoms— it would be one of the biggest mistakes the Court could make in this day and age.