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Essay on Morse v. Frederick Civil Lawsuit: Bong Hits for Jesus

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Over five years have passed since high school senior Joseph Frederick was suspended for 10 days by school principal Deborah Morse after refusing her request to take down a 14-foot banner he was displaying at a school-sanctioned event which read “BONG HiTS 4 JESUS.” Born as a seemingly trivial civil lawsuit in which Frederick sued the school for violating his First Amendment rights to free speech, the case made its way up to the U.S. Supreme Court, and the long-awaited ruling of Morse v. Frederick has finally been released. In a 5-4 split decision, the court ruled in favor of Morse and upheld the school board’s original ruling that Morse was acting within her rights and did not violate Frederick’s First Amendment rights by taking away his…show more content…
Morse, now guilty in this civil suit, filed a writ of certiorari to the Supreme Court, which they granted, which has now ended with them coming to a decision by having carefully analyzed the specificities of the present case along with similar cases by which it was preceded. In writing the majority opinion, Chief Justice Roberts took note that the Tinker v. Des Moines (1969) ruling decided that students do not "shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate." However, the Chief Justice also relied upon the precedent set forth in Bethel v. Fraser, 478 U.S. 675, 682 (1986) which explained how "the constitutional rights of students at public school are not automatically, coextensive with the rights of adults." Additionally, the rights of students are applied "in light of the special characteristics of the school environment," according to the U.S. Supreme Court in Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier, 484 U.S. 260, 266 (1988). The special circumstances in Morse v. Frederick were first that the school has a policy that specifically forbids advocating illegal drug use due to the risks it imposes on other students, and second that principal Morse was forced to decide in the moment whether or not she should act. The decision in this case seems to have left public school students’ free speech rights in an ambiguous state. The Justices in support of the majority opinion—Justices Thomas, Alito, Kennedy, and Scalia—were thus
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