Implications of the First Amendment
The first amendment guarantees a person’s freedom of speech, assembly, and religion. It is one of the most important amendments in the constitution, and one of the most commonly cited and used. It guarantees the freedom of expression. People have the right to express themselves in a way they deem would pass on the message. Yet, despite this, it is also abused. Many people who say hurtful and demeaning things to others often cite the first amendment. In school institutions, it is important for the school management to realize that students do not shed their rights just because they are in the building. Schools have the right to ban vulgar and offensive language in school. They also have a right to limit speech if they perceive that it will disrupt school activities or invade the rights of other people in the school. They have a right and an obligation to protect all students and ensure that they are safe. When drafting the school codes, rules and regulations, they should keep in mind the constitutional rights of the students as well as the teachers.
Bullying is one of the most serious issues facing schools today. Over the recent years, schools have attempted to ensure that there is no bullying in their schools. This is because of the adverse effects that bullying has on the students. Some of the students who have encountered bullying have ended up committing suicide. They have suffered psychologically because of this. Schools cannot control what the students do outside the school. The students who bully others cannot claim to exercise first amendment because they are not expressing themselves, or communicating any message, other than the fact that they are bullies. In the same way, a teacher who refers to her students as whiners may not realize the effects that her words have on her students. The students might feel that the teacher is some sort of bully because she is abusing them emotionally and abusing their intelligence. The teacher’s words may have hurt the students and defamed them. Anyone who read the blog had an opinion about the students. The students may have felt that her words are especially demeaning, especially when read by the people who knew them. The teacher had a right to express herself through her writing. However, she did not gauge the consequences of her words, and she did not think that the students would consider her words offensive. Schools have the right to limit students’ speech, if they perceive that it is a safety concern for the school. Teachers should not read student’s emails because this violates their right of privacy. Emails are personal, and different from the public opinions expressed on various students’ websites.
Schools do not allow students or teachers to use offensive language (Blond 277). They have to watch over all the students, and this is sometimes not easy. While the students are in school, the school management is obligated to ensure their safety. This includes physical as well as emotional safety. The person using offensive words may not realize the damage his words have on another person. Some students express themselves through their clothes. Just as students are not allowed to use offensive language while in school, they should not wear offensive clothing. Many schools have established regulations concerning dress codes. Some students do not agree with the dress codes. Students should not dress in a manner that disrupts learning of other students. They should maintain decency for the sake of every person in the school.
Everyone has freedom of religion, and no one should impose his or her religion on another person. This is different from ‘witnessing’ or telling others about one’s religion. Telling a person about one’s religion is the right of speech. It gives one a chance to inform others concerning his or her religion. It is not different from reading a book concerning that religion. However, forcing others to accept one’s form of religion or attacking people of other faith does not constitute freedom of speech. In case of sports events, there is nothing wrong for coaches and students to pray before they start a game if all of them agree concerning the issue. The team could be composed of people from different faiths, and all the members should respect this. If there is any person who does not feel comfortable praying, then he too should exercise his rights, and choose not to join the others. The issue is different in a graduation ceremony because it involves all the students.
The school that suspended the student because of wearing the rosary was wrong, and it violated the student’s constitutional rights. The students did not force anyone to wear the rosary. She was wearing it as a way to express herself. Part of the reason why the founding fathers were concerned with religious freedom was that they did not want anyone to force the people to follow a certain religion, and they did not want to limit anyone from following any religion. This has not been an issue in the past, as is clearly present from the many religions in the country. It is important to note that these rules are slightly different in private of faith-based institutions. The issue of the first amendment in schools is a sensitive and delicate issue. Many schools have established rules to ensure that there is order in the school. For instance, if every person were to observe the practices and rules recommended by their religion, then there would be some form of chaos because all the religious institutions have different beliefs. Carrying out some of the religious practices can affect learning in schools.
The first amendment guarantees the rights of individuals. It is one of the greatest pillars of America, and one that distinguishes it from other countries. Yet many people have been hurt in different ways because of these rights. School administrators have a difficult time instilling their own rules and at the same time, guaranteeing that they grant the students their rights. On one hand, the teachers teach the students what the first amendment means, and what it guarantees them. On the other hand, the teachers tell the students that they have to restrict some of these rights because of the rules set by the school management. This may seem contradicting on their part, but it is the only way that they can guarantee student protection and safety, and maintain order in the school.
Bethel, Brian. First Amendment has limits, Local Experts Agree. Sep. 2008. Web. 17 May 2012
Blond, C. Neil. Constitutional Law. New York, NY: Aspen Publishers, 2009. Print
Center for Public Education. Free Speech and Public Schools. April 2006. Web. 17 May 2012