Let the censorship commence: Graduation speakers rarely prevail in First Amendment challenges


After a wave of similar controversies in 2013, I wrote 

It’s an interesting, but not conclusively settled, legal question whether simply disobeying an order to stick to the school-dictated script is itself a punishable offense separate and apart from the content of the speech.

If the district’s legal position is that the student was punished for disobedience rather than for the message, the First Amendment argument becomes harder. Though if the student could establish that the pre-approval rule has been selectively enforced — if past speakers have been allowed to veer off-script to thank their grandparents or sing a few bars of the school fight song — the XX. 

As a practical matter, these are uniquely difficult cases to undertake. A court can’t order a do-over of graduation, so even a fully successful legal challenge is likely to result in nothing more than the moral satisfaction of an order that will benefit future speakers.