Freedom of Expression (US Supreme Court) Morse v. Frederick (2007)
Frederick claimed his First Amendment rights had been violated and the ACLU brought a case in federal district court. The court dismissed his lawsuit and Frederick appealed the rulings. A three-court panel of the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled in March 2006 sided with Frederick. Judge Andrew Kleinfeld said his speech was not "vulgar, lewd, and obscene" and did not cause any disruption. It was therefore protected under the Tinker standard. Eventually the case was heard by the US Supreme Court.On June 25, 2007 the US Supreme Court ruled by 5-4 in favor of the school principal. In his majority opinion, Chief Justice John Roberts stated: "We hold that schools may take steps to safeguard those entrusted to their care from speech that can reasonably be regarded as encouraging illegal drug use." In his strongly worded dissent, Justice Stevens declared "that the school's interest in protecting its students from exposure to speech 'reasonably regarded as promoting illegal drug use' cannot justify disciplining Frederick for his attempt to make an ambiguous statement to a television audience simply because it contained an oblique reference to drugs. The First Amendment demands more, indeed, much more." In an concurrent opinion, Clarence Thomas sided with the majority, but wished the Court had gone further and thrown out Tinker entirely: "In my view, the history of public education, as originally understood, does not protect student speech in public schools...in the earliest public schools, teachers taught, and students listened. Teachers commanded, and students obeyed."