Educators teach students about First Amendment in theory but not in practice, survey shows

VIRGINIA — More than two-thirds ofeducators do not believe students at public high schools shouldbe allowed to report on controversial issues in their studentnewspapers without approval of school authorities, according toa survey conducted by The Freedom Forum’s First Amendment Centerand the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

The release of the survey coincides with the launch of a multi-yearpartnership between the First Amendment Center and the ASCD thatis designed to improve the way schools teach and model the rightsand responsibilities of the First Amendment, according to a pressrelease issued by the groups.

The results of the survey, which were released in March, werecompiled by the Center for Survey Research and Analysis at theUniversity of Connecticut. The center polled 1,802 public schoolteachers and administrators, asking them questions about how theyteach students about their First Amendment rights both in andoutside the classroom.

The researchers found that while educators believe they doa good job of teaching students about their First Amendment rights,they are not very willing to allow students to practice thoserights while in school. In fact, in addition to the 71 percentof educators who do not think students should be allowed to writeabout controversial issues in the school paper without administrativeapproval, fewer than half of those surveyed support the rightsof students to distribute political or religious materials atschool.

The First Amendment Center and the ASCD hope their "FirstAmendment Schools" initiative will result in more willingnessamong educators to let students exercise their First Amendmentrights while in school. The initiative’s objectives include creatingguidelines for the application of the five freedoms of the FirstAmendment in schools, developing model schools where First Amendmentprinciples are understood and applied, encouraging curriculumreforms that reinvigorate and deepen teaching about the FirstAmendment, and educating school leaders, teachers, school boardattorneys and others in the meaning and significance of FirstAmendment principles and ideals.

"Educators need to be convinced that students can exercisetheir First Amendment rights with responsibility," Gene Carter,executive director of ASCD, said in the press release. "Theywant students to learn about freedom but are concerned about howstudents practice freedom — especially in the school setting."

For More Information:

Learn more about the "First Amendment Schools" initiativeon The Freedom Forum’s Web site at:

Learn more about the "First Amendment Schools" initiativeon The Freedom Forum’s Web site at: