You Be The Judge
Test your knowledge of the Five Freedoms and see how you match up to the courts...and fellow citizens.
School Censorship of Artistic Productions
A high school drama teacher chose the play Independence for her students to perform at a competition. The play depicts a dysfunctional family that includes a lesbian daughter and a daughter with an illegitimate child. The students captured top honors at a regional competition. The principal learned of the script, objected to the play and eventually only let the students perform it with certain scenes deleted. The principal then transferred the drama teacher to a new school because she allegedly failed to follow the school's "controversial materials" policy, which gives parents some control over what material their children are exposed to at school. The teacher alleged that the "controversial materials" policy did not cover dramatic presentations, and sued on First Amendment grounds, alleging that she was retaliated against in her transfer because of the content of the play.
May a principal censor a theater teacher’s choice for a school play?
A. YESAlthough teachers maintain First Amendment rights outside of school hours, they surrender those rights at the schoolhouse gate. The principal’s need for order and control is more pressing than an individual teacher’s right to free expression.
B. YESSince the teacher’s dispute with the principal is nothing more than an ordinary employment dispute, it does not constitute protected speech and has no First Amendment protection.
C. NOAlthough school administrators must and do have final authority over curriculum decisions, that authority is not wholly unfettered. In this case, the principal’s actions were excessive and unnecessary.