Student Speech: Where Does Avon Draw The Line?

Joseph Souza | Features Editor

It’s first period Etymology for senior, then junior, Connor O’Neill as he receives a yellow slip calling him down to the guidance office, immediately. He’s elated.

“I was really excited to get the opportunity to express my views and discuss the issue,” he said. “I kind of figured what I was saying was gonna come back to get me.”5.16

O’Neill has agreed with the school not to include exact details of the situation, but he was upset with one of the school’s decisions.

“They didn’t appreciate me speaking out against them, they framed it as me attacking the specific person/group that was affected by the decision,” O’Neill said. “I was more focused on the school and their allowance of it, but they told me I wasn’t allowed to talk about it until I fought them about it… they came back and told me the school couldn’t do anything.”

O’Neill said he doesn’t agree with such censorship.

“I think that the best decision comes when you’re the most informed, when you silence one side of the issue, you’ll never have as much information as you could,” O’Neill said. “They could have acknowledged that I had a fair point and just left it alone, it probably wouldn’t have been a big deal if they hadn’t addressed it.”

Although Tinker V. Des Moines concluded that students don’t shed their first amendment right to freedom of speech as they enter the school property, it also allows for schools to censor speech that “materially and substantially interfere” with school functions.

Principal Matthew Shockley said the line is drawn when speech causes disruption or promotes illegal activity.

“We do try to have some rationale,” Shockley said. “I think we try to be reasonable by and large.”

Infographic by Nathan Miller.

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