In 1970, three Chicago high school students were disciplined on separate occasions for distributing material that was not approved by the General Superintendent of Schools. Lane Technical High School seniors Burt Fujishima and Richard Pelus were suspended for four and seven days, respectively, for distributing 350 free copies of their underground newspaper The Cosmic Frog. Bowen High School sophomore Robert Balanoff was disciplined on two different occasions for his actions. The first incident took place in May when he handed another student a petition for a teach-in on the war in Vietnam and the school suspended him for two days. The second took place off-campus during a fire drill in October when Balanoff distributed leaflets regarding the same subject. He was then suspended for five days. All incidents involving the students did not take place during class time. The students’ suit was against the constitutionality of a rule, known as section 6-19, set forth by the Chicago Board of Education that states no one on campus can distribute “books, tracts, or other publications” unless approved by the board.
On May 4, 1972, the United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit, found section 6-19 unconstitutional under Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District and Near v. Minnesota ex rel. Olson. Both cases state that speech that does not impose a reasonable distraction cannot be restricted and the freedom to distribute publications without prior censorship, respectively. Another related case, Eisner v. Stamford Board of Education, involved a rule similar to section 6-19. However, the appellate court upheld the students’ First Amendment rights over the precedent set in Eisner.