Freedom of Speech - Birdville Independent School District


Types of Speech

Pure Speech





Supreme Court has provided the strongest protection.

Types of Speech

Symbolic Speech (Expressive Conduct)



May include words

Limited if public safety is endangered.

Types of Speech

Examples of symbolic speech

Flag burning

Draft Card burning

Black arm bands

Freedom of Speech

When can government limit or regulate expressive conduct?

1. If the regulation is within the constitutional power of government.

2. If the government has a substantial interest unrelated to suppression of speech.

3. If there are ample alternative ways to communicate.

Examples of acceptable limits on expressive speech

Picketing in front of a private residence.

Approaching people without consent to speak or offer literature within 100 feet of a health care facility

(i.e., abortion clinic)

An individual’s Right to Privacy will triumph over Freedom of Speech.

Freedom of Speech

Regulating Speech

Seditious speech is prohibited .

Urging resistance to lawful authority

Advocating overthrow of the government

Regulating Speech

Clear and Present Danger

” Doctrine

(in time of war, things may be different)

“When a nation is at war many things that might be said in time of peace … will not be endured …”

Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. (1919)

Regulating Speech

Bad Tendency


Example: Yelling

“Fire” in a crowded theater


Regulating Speech

“ Preferred Position ” Doctrine

(1 st Amendment freedoms are more fundamental than other freedoms)

The government must show that it is absolutely necessary to limit

Freedom of Speech.

Regulating Speech

Sedition Laws

Dennis v. United States (1951)

Court upheld conviction of 11 communist party leaders who advocated revolution.

Regulating Speech

Sedition Laws

Yates v. United States (1957)

Court overturned convictions of several communist party leaders.

Expressing an opinion that the government should be overthrown is different from urging people to take action.

Regulating Speech

Brandenburg v. Ohio (1969)

Court ruled in favor of a Ku Klux Klan leader.

While he advocated use of force, he did not urge immediate and concrete acts of violence.

Other Forms of

Unprotected Speech

Defamatory Speech

False speech that damages a person’s good name, character, or reputation.


– Spoken


– Written

Other Forms of

Unprotected Speech

For slander and libel the key is:

1. Was the statement made with the knowledge that it was false?

2. Was the statement made with reckless disregard of whether it was false or not?

Other Forms of

Unprotected Speech

NOTE: For public officials (government, police officers, etc.) or public figures

(pastors, athletes, entertainers, etc.) the rules can be very different.

Other Forms of

Unprotected Speech

Fighting Words

Offensive, derisive, annoying, etc.

Words that “by their very utterance inflict injury or tend to incite an immediate breach of the peace.”

Fighting Words

Student Speech is Limited

Tinker v. Des Moines School District (1969)

Students do not give up their rights to free speech while in school.

(Students won.)


Student Speech is Limited

Bethel School District v. Fraser (1986)

School districts may suspend students for lewd or indecent speech at school events, even though the same speech would be protected outside the school.

School officials can decide what manner of speech is appropriate.

Student Speech is Limited

The Supreme Court says that schools have broad authority to regulate student speech in school-sponsored newspapers, theatrical productions, and other activities. These things are “part of the curriculum,” not an individual’s personal expression of thought.

Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier (1988)