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Speaking Up

Speaking Up

The Unintended Costs of Free Speech in Public Schools

Anne Proffitt Dupre

ISBN 9780674056282

Publication date: 09/01/2010

Just how much freedom of speech should high school students have? Does giving children and adolescents a far-reaching right of expression, without joining it to responsibility, ultimately result in an asylum that is run by its inmates?

Since the late 1960s, the United States Supreme Court has struggled to clarify the contours of constitutionally guaranteed freedom of speech rights for students. But as this thought-provoking book contends, these court opinions have pitted students—and their litigious parents—against schools while undermining the schools’ necessary disciplinary authority.

In a clear and lively style, sprinkled with wry humor, Anne Proffitt Dupre examines the way courts have wrestled with student expression in school. These fascinating cases deal with political protest, speech codes, student newspapers, book banning in school libraries, and the long-standing struggle over school prayer. Dupre also devotes an entire chapter to teacher speech rights. In the final chapter on the 2007 “Bong Hits 4 Jesus” case, she asks what many people probably wondered: when the Supreme Court gave teenagers the right to wear black armbands in school to protest the Vietnam War, just how far does this right go? Did the Court also give students who just wanted to provoke their principal the right to post signs advocating drug use?

Each chapter is full of insight into famous decisions and the inner workings of the courts. Speaking Up offers eye-opening history for students, teachers, lawyers, and parents seeking to understand how the law attempts to balance order and freedom in schools.


  • How the Supreme Court treats speech cases can be a mirror into that Court's soul, especially when the cases are about student speech. In this fascinating book, Anne Dupre reveals the deep inconsistencies and drunkard's reel of the jurisprudence in these cases, from the iconic Tinker through the recent Bong Hits 4 Jesus, and the difficulties that educators now face in regulating even threatening student speech. I have taught these cases many times, and like the kaleidoscope, they shift each time. But I will never look at them quite the same way after reading the story she tells of conflicting principles and no-win situations for teachers.

    —Michael A. Olivas, William B. Bates Distinguished Chair in Law, University of Houston, author of The Law And Higher Education: Cases And Materials on Colleges in Court, Third Edition


  • Anne Proffitt Dupre was J. Alton Hosch Professor of Law at the University of Georgia, and a former schoolteacher.

Book Details

  • Harvard University Press