Gathering at the School House Gate

40 Years of Landmark School Speech Cases:
Through the Eyes of Those Who Were There

Some of the nation's leading school speech experts will explain in practical terms what each of these cases means today for best practices in handling controversial student speech at the school level and in the courts. You will hear practical, legally sound strategies for handling the difficult challenges presented by off-campus cyber-speech, harassment and bullying, hate speech and threats. This two-day symposium promises to be an unforgettable experience for scholars, teachers, students, attorneys and policymakers.

Thursday, Sept. 20

8-10 a.m. Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District
When John Tinker and others wore black armbands to school to protest the Vietnam War, school officials suspended them, fearing the protest would create a disturbance. The Court established that students have the right to express controversial opinions in school as long as doing so does not create a disruption or infringe on others’ rights.
Speakers: Plantiffs John Tinker, Mary Beth Tinker and Chris Eckhardt, Tinker Attorney Dan Johnston
Commentators: Curt Tideman (Lathrop & Gage), Bernard James (Pepperdine School of Law)

10-10:15 a.m. Break

10:15 a.m. - 12:15 p.m. Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier
The Court recognized school officials' right to control the content of student speech in a school-sponsored newspaper so long as they have a legitimate pedagogical reason. Cathy Kuhlmeier and fellow journalism students had challenged the school's right to pull articles because the principal found them to be inappropriate.
Speakers: Defendant Gene Reynolds, Plaintiff Cathy Kuhlmeier Frey
Commentators: Allen Rostron (UMKC), Jeff Browne (University of Kansas School of Journalism),
Mark Johnson (SNR Denton)

12:15 - 1:15 p.m. Lunch on your own

1:30 - 3:30 p.m. Widmar v. Vincent
When Clark Vincent and fellow members of a Christian group were forbidden to worship during their on-campus meetings at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, they sued. The Court sided with the students and banned viewpoint discrimination against student groups in university settings.
Speakers: Defendant Gary Widmar, Plaintiff Clark Vincent, Attorneys James Smart and Ted Ayres
Commentators: Josie Brown (University of South Carolina School of Law), Doug Bonney (ACLU)

3:30 - 3:40 p.m. Wrap up

6:30 p.m. Keynote - David Hudson, Jr.
David Hudson, Jr. is a scholar at the First Amendment Center and author of several books on student rights and the Constitution.

Friday, Sept. 21

8-10 a.m. Bethel School District #403 v. Fraser
Matt Fraser sued his school for disciplining him after he delivered a sexually suggestive speech at a school assembly. The Court held that school officials do not violate the First Amendment when they discipline lewd, vulgar or obscene student speech.
Speakers: Plantiff Matt Fraser, Attorney Jeff Haley
Commentators: Kristi Bowman (Michigan State College of Law) and Maurice Dyson (Thomas Jefferson Law School)

10-10:15 a.m. Break

10:15 a.m. - 12:15 p.m. Morse v. Frederick
Joe Frederick and his friends hoped to make it on TV when they unfurled a banner proclaiming "BONG HiTS 4 JESUS" as the Olympic torch passed their school in Juneau, Alaska. Principal Deborah Morse suspended Frederick, who challenged it as a violation of his right to free speech.  The Court ruled against him, saying educators may prohibit student speech that promotes illegal drug use.
Speakers: Plaintiff Joe Frederick, Attorney Doug Mertz, Attorney Ken Starr
Commentators: Barry McDonald (Pepperdine School of Law), Emily Gold Waldman (Pace Law School)


12:15 - 12:30 p.m. Closing Remarks


All sessions will be held at
UMKC School of Law
500 E. 52nd Street
Kansas City, Mo. 64110

Campus parking map (PDF)