Minarcini v. Strongsville City School District

The Court’s Impact on
Intellectual Freedom and Youth
Presented by:
Cohen v. California (1971)
Cohen v. California (1971)
 Paul Robert Cohen, age 19, arrested for wearing a jacket to
the Los Angeles Courthouse with the words “Fuck the Draft”
 Convicted under California Penal Code 415
 Disturbing the peace by “offensive conduct”
Cohen v. California
The U.S. Supreme Court overturned the decision because
 Cohen was exhibiting speech rather than conduct
 Cohen’s speech was not “fighting words” because they are not
addressed to a specific person
 The wording for the Code is not specific because the public
may not know what offensive conduct is
 Cohen’s speech is not obscene because it is not sexual in
Cohen v. California
“The constitutional right of free speech is powerful medicine in
a society as diverse and populous as ours. It is designed and
intended to remove government restraints from the arena of
public discussion, putting the decision as to what views shall be
voiced largely into the hands of each us , in the hope that use of
such freedom will ultimately produce a more capable
Justice Harlan
Cohen v. California
 Important decision for freedom of speech
 The case confirms the idea that people can “avert their eyes”
if they see something that they do not want to see
 The case confirmed the application of “fighting words” and
Reno v. ACLU (1997)
Reno v. ACLU (1997)
Communications Decency Act, part of the Telecommunications
Act of 1996
 Criminalized the transmission of “obscene” or “indecent”
material to minors
 Prohibited displaying text or images to minors relating to sexual
or excretory activities or organs
Reno v. ACLU
The Supreme Court stated that the “indecent transmission” part
of the CDA violated the Freedom of Speech clause of the First
 CDA would block material that was education or artistic
 It would be too difficult to check the age
 It is not only limited to commercial transactions
 It might block adults from their constitutionally protected right
to view obscene or indecent material
 It did not give parents the freedom to choose what their child
can see
Reno v. ACLU
 Precursor to CIPA
 CDA did not pass because it was too broad, but COPA was
narrow enough
 CDA did not give parents discretion, but CIPA did
Bethel School District No. 403
v. Fraser
Bethel School District v. Fraser
 4/26/1983
 Senior Matthew Fraser delivers sexually explicit speech
to Bethel High School Students
 "I know a man who is firm -- he's firm in his pants, he's
firm in his shirt, his character is firm -- but most . . . of all,
his belief in you, the students of Bethel, is firm.”
 Caused hooting, yelling, sexual gestures, apparent
Bethel School District v. Fraser
 Bethel Rules:
 "Conduct which materially
and substantially interferes
with the educational
process is prohibited,
including the use of
obscene, profane language
or gestures."
 Fraser is suspended for 3
days, and his candidacy for
graduation speaker is
Bethel School District v. Fraser
 Fraser takes case to the
District Court, which rules
in his favor
 Court of Appeals affirms
District Court ruling
 Precedent of Tinker v. Des
 Claims wording of school
rules is overly vague
Bethel School District v. Fraser
 Supreme Court upholds the school district’s decision
 Fraser was advised speech would be inappropriate and may face
severe consequences
 Tinker concerned passive political expression, which did not
intrude on the work of the school or rights of students
 Such speech is prohibited in formal halls governed by Rules of
 Role of school to teach citizenship
 Disagree the student could not have anticipated the
Issues and Viewpoint
 What constitutes protected and unprotected speech in the
academic setting?
I agree with the Supreme Court ruling
Not an example of political expression
Caused clear disruption in student behavior and classroom
Assembly was mandatory, so students were forced to hear
offensive language
Board of Education v. Pico
Board of Education v. Pico
 Board of Education, Island Trees Union Free School District
No. 26, et al. v. Pico, by his next friend Pico, et al. (1982)
 Complaints:
 “anti-American, anti-Christian, anti-Semitic and just plain
 "obscenities, blasphemies, brutality and perversion beyond
Board of Education v. Pico
 The Fixer, by Bernard Malamud;
 Slaughterhouse Five, by Kurt Vonnegut Jr.;
 The Naked Ape, by Desmond Morris;
 Down These Mean Streets, by Piri Thomas;
 Best Short Stories of Negro Writers, edited by Langston Hughes;
 Go Ask Alice, authorship anonymous;
 Laughing Boy, by Oliver LaFarge;
 Black Boy, by Richard Wright;
 A Hero Ain’t Nothin’ But a Sandwich, by Alice Childress;
 Soul on Ice, by Eldridge Cleaver; and
 A Reader for Writers, edited by Jerome Archer
Board of Education v. Pico
 Decision: "Libraries afford [students] an opportunity at
self-education and individual enrichment that is wholly
 Issue: Can school board members remove books from the
library based on the members’ personal values?
 Viewpoint: Students need access to information about
different experiences and points of view to enrich their
learning. No individual or group should be allowed to impose
arbitrary criteria on the school library collection.
Minarcini v. Strongsville City School District
Minarcini v. Strongsville City School District
 Minarcini v. Strongsville City School District 541
F.2d 577 (6th Cir, 1976)
 Censors' complaint:
 (informal) “completely sick” and “garbage” (Reichman, 2001)
 Books removed
 Catch 22, by Arthur Heller
 Cat's Cradle, by Kurt Vonnegut
Minarcini v. Strongsville City School District
 Decision: "a library is … an important privilege created by the
state for the benefit of students in the schools … not subject to
being withdrawn by succeeding school boards whose members
might desire to 'winnow' the library for books the contents of
which occasioned their displeasure or approval."
 Issues: Can a school board override teachers' selections of books
for the school curriculum? Can a school board remove books from
a school library?
 Viewpoint: No student is compelled to read the books in the
library, or to engage with any given book held there. The library is
there to support the students' right to read, which is an essential
part of their intellectual freedom.
Chaplinsky v. State of New Hampshire (1941)
Chaplinsky v. State of New Hampshire
Case Facts
 Devout Jehovah’s Witness Walter Chaplinsky arrested for
violating a state statute after saying to the City Marshal “You are
a God damned racketeer” and “a damned Fascist and the whole
government of Rochester are Fascists or agents of Fascists.”
Issues Raised
 Is speech that incites a breach of the peace protected by the
First Amendment?
 Does the application of the state statute violate Chaplinsky’s
freedom of speech protected by the First Amendment?
Chaplinsky v. State of New Hampshire
 Unanimous decision, courts upheld the arrest stating the state
statute restricting speech was specific enough that it complied with
the requirements of due process and did not unreasonably impinge
on Chaplinsky’s First Amendment rights to free speech
 Decision articulated the fighting words doctrine, which limits the
First Amendment’s guarantee of freedom of speech for all
Chaplinsky v. State of New Hampshire
 Free speech is not unlimited
 The term “Fascist” – fighting words?
 Interpretation of language, tone, place, context, and who the
language is directed at – all important factors to determine
whether speech is protected
 Major criticism by Caine (2004: “The ‘Fighting Words’ category
was ill-conceived – is in disarray and poses a potent danger to
speech that should command a premier protection.”
Salvail v. Nashua Board of Education (1979)
Salvail v. Nashua Board of Education
Case Facts
 Nashua School Board member Alan Thomier exercising his strong
religious and patriotic views, presented a formal resolution to
withdraw copies of MS magazine from the high school library because
Contained ads for vibrators, contraceptives, materials dealing with
lesbianism and witchcraft, and gay material as well as ads for The
Guardian – a pro-communist newspaper (his opinion) and ads which
suggested trips to Cuba.
Encouraged students to send away for records made by known
communist folk singers.
 Dissenting board members requested that interim procedures already
in place be followed; they were ignored and MS Magazine was
removed and the subscription cancelled
Salvail v. Nashua Board of Education
Issues Raised
 Plaintiff 16-year-old Rhonda Salvail, along with an English teacher
and several Nashua residents, claimed deprivation of due process and
rights under the First Amendment and sued the Nashua Board of Ed.
 Did the board follow its own procedures in removing the magazine?
 Was the magazine a valid resource for study?
 Did it contain offensive material?
 “The court finds and rules that the defendants herein have failed to
demonstrate a substantial and legitimate government interest
sufficient to warrant the removal of MS magazine from the Nashua
High School library. Their action contravenes the plaintiff’s First
Amendment rights, and as such, it is plainly wrong.”
Salvail v. Nashua Board of Education
 This case, along with three other court cases, forms the foundation of the
extended view of Freedom of Speech to include the right of minors to
read using school library materials
 The ALA states as referenced in Adams (2010): “The freedom to read is
essential to our democracy” (p. 59).
 And again, in the interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights, Adams
(2010) quotes, “Children and young adults unquestionably possess First
Amendment rights, including the right to receive information through the
library in print, non print, or digital format. Constitutionally protected
speech cannot be suppressed solely to protect children and adults from
ideas or images a legislative body believes to be unsuitable for them” (p.
This concludes our presentation.
Thank you for your time and attention!
 Fraser, M. Untitled speech. Retreived from
 Legal Information Institute. Bethel school district No. 403 v. fraser (No. 841667) 755 F.2d 1356, reversed. Retrieved from
 Siegel, P. (1987). When is a student’s political communication not
political: Bethel school district vs. fraser. Communication education, 36
(4). Retrieved from
 Weeks. R.A. (2012). The first amendment, public school students, and
the need for clear limits on school officials’ authority over off-campus
student speech. Georgia law review, 46 (4). Retrieved from
 American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio. (n.d.). Free speech
on the docket. Retrieved
from http://www.acluohio.org/archives/cases/minarcini-vstrongsville-city-school-district
 Minarcini v. Strongsville City School District 541 F.2d 577
(6th Cir, 1976) Retrieved from
 Reichman, H. (2001). Censorship and selection: Issues and answers
for schools, 3rd Edition. Chicago: American Library Association.
Adams, H. R. (2008). Ensuring intellectual freedom and access to information in the school library media
program. Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited.
 Auguste, M. (2012). VOYA’s guide to intellectual freedom for teens. Bowie, MD: VOYA Press.
 Caine, B. (2004). The trouble with ‘fighting words’: Chaplinsky v. New Hampshire is a threat to
first amendment values and should be overruled. Marquette Law Review, 88(3), Retrieved from
 Dorres, P. & Means, J. (n.d.). Chaplinsky v. State of New Hampshire. Retrieved from
 Hudson, D. L. (2012). ‘Fighting words’ case still making waves on 70th anniversary. Retrieved from:
 Leagle.com. (2013). Salvail v. Nashua bd. of ed. Retrieved from
 Reichman, H. (2001). Censorship and selection: Issues and answers for schools. Chicago, IL: American
Library Association.
 http://identityrevolutionproject.wordpress.com/tag/fighting-words/
 http://chronicle.com/blogs/linguafranca/2011/10/20/ms-40-years-on/
 https://msmagazine.com/blog/2011/02/16/black-history-month-the-myth-of-the-blacksuperwoman-revisited/