Symposium at UC-Davis to explore student free-speech issues

CALIFORNIA — Speakers at the University ofCalifornia at Davis Law Review Symposium on Friday will attempt to answerquestions regarding free speech in public schools, an issue for which some thinkthe Supreme Court has provided unclear guidance.

“We want to have arobust dialogue about these issues,” said Megan Knize, law review editorin chief. “We’re hoping [the speakers] will have some new ways ofanalyzing these issues.”

One of the 10 speakers representing lawschools across America is Dean Kenneth W. Starr of Pepperdine Law School. In2007 Starr successfully argued the U.S. Supreme Court case Morse v.Frederick, which found that administrators may punish student speech thatadvocates the use of illegal drugs.

“Earlier decisions seem to givestudents more rights … but later decisions seem to clamp down more heavily onwhat students can say in a school setting,” Knize said.

The FirstAmendment topic was chosen after a group of law students solicited law schoolfaculty for proposals, she said.

“Faculty are very interested in thistopic. It seems to me that this is an area of law that’s prettymuddled,” she said. “The doctrines are not veryclear.”

Knize said she hopes administrators and others who deal withthis issue will leave the symposium with clear answers on how to addresssituations they face daily.

Landmark Supreme Court decisions that haveaffected students’ First Amendment rights in public schools include

Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District in 1969 andHazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier in 1988.

In Tinker, the Supreme Court ruled that in order to censor student speech,administrators must prove the speech would create a “substantialdisruption” of normal school activities or would invade the rights ofothers. But in Hazelwood, the Court said school officials generally maycensor items in school-sponsored outlets if they can present a reasonableeducational justification for doing so and if they have not traditionallyallowed students to make final content decisions.

A list of speakersand a schedule for the symposium can be found at