Freedom of Speech

Recently, I wrote about things students say and do in the classroom when I’m supply teaching. There was one incident that I didn’t mention because I thought it deserved its own post.

I had a student who was using foul language and saying offensive things, and I ask them to stop repeatedly. Their response? “We have free speech in this country and I can say whatever I want when I want.”

This was frustrating at first because of their complete lack of respect for myself, the other students in the room, and the general classroom environment. Then it became frustrating at a different level: I remembered learning about how rights can be limited in school settings, but I couldn’t remember the exact details on this one.

So, I went home and told my husband about the incident, and he found The Charter in the Classroom website. Clicking on the Freedom of Expression link, I got the answers I was looking for.

First, the Freedom of Expression is stated as the “freedom of thought, belief, opinion, and expression, including freedom of the press and other media communication”, and also “any non-violent expression is deserving of protection”.  So, the student’s language could be protected, as it was non-violent.

But, it goes on to explain the school context: “Schools may choose to limit students’ freedom of expression in order to ensure an orderly learning environment, to focus course material on particular topics, to protect other students, to limit criticism or to ensure age appropriate discussions for all students.”

So, this is why administration, teachers, and staff at public schools can limit the language acceptable in their classrooms and schools. A good tidbit of knowledge to have in your teacher’s toolbox!

This is an invaluable resource to have on hand – check in out and bookmark it!

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