You Be The Judge
Test your knowledge of the Five Freedoms and see how you match up to the courts...and fellow citizens.
Student Religious Speech
In June 1998, Antonio Peck and his classmates were given an assignment to create a poster about the environment.
The five-year-old turned in a poster with religious images and written references to God and Jesus. School officials rejected it and allowed Antonio to submit a second poster.
The second poster was a crayon drawing of children picking up garbage, with a kneeling man in a flowing robe nearby reaching out his hands to the clouds above. There were no words identifying the figure as Jesus.
School officials displayed the poster but folded it in half so the picture of the robed man was not visible. The Pecks filed a lawsuit in November 1999, accusing school officials of violating Antonio's First Amendment right to free speech.
May a school bar a kindergarten student from drawing Jesus on a poster about saving the environment?
A. YESThe child’s poster didn’t deal with the assignment, which was about environmentalism. The teacher would have reacted the same way even if a more secular, but equally ancillary, symbol (such as Smokey the Bear) had been used.
B. NOSchools may not discriminate against the religious viewpoints of students, especially when they address permissible subjects in response to class assignments. The First Amendment’s Free Exercise Clause is designed to protect this inalienable right.
C. NOAlthough students have some First Amendment rights outside of school hours, they surrender those rights at the schoolhouse gate. The school’s need for order and control is more pressing than an individual student’s right to free expression.