Award Date


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Educational Leadership

First Committee Member

Gerald C. Kops

Number of Pages



When students exercise their First Amendment right of free speech, it can sometimes conflict with the obligation of public school officials to maintain a safe and orderly environment on their campuses. Three Supreme Court decisions---Tinker v. Des Moines, 393 U.S. 503 (1969), Bethel v. Fraser, 478 U.S. 675 (1986), and Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier, 484 U.S. 260 (1988)---have addressed the most common types of student expression. Hazelwood dealt with school-sponsored printed material and Fraser established ground rules to handle public address by students. In both instances, the Supreme Court endorsed the school's authority to regulate the amount of "free speech" that can be exercised by students in the public schools; Only Tinker, the earliest of the three decisions and heavily quoted from in the other two, spoke to the issue of symbolic speech: that which is neither spoken aloud nor published for distribution. Symbolic speech is the type most frequently encountered in schools, given the Court's endorsement of reasonable prior restraint of the printed word and schools' careful monitoring of students' public speaking; Over the years, student speech cases have found judges seeking to resolve issues which were not exact fits for these landmarks by quoting "sound bites" from one or more of them. This has resulted in rulings which often can raise more questions than they answer; This study targeted symbolic student expression: that which is neither spoken aloud nor published. In reviewing case law dealing with this type of speech, the study determined how the various federal courts have interpreted the Tinker landmark over the past three decades. The study investigated possible patterns in the courts' rulings which could provide additional guidance for today's harried school administrators.


Amendment; Bethel; Bethel v. Fraser; First Amendment; Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier; Moines; Speech; States; Student Speech; Supreme; Symbolic; Tinker; Tinker v. Des Moines Independent School District; United States Supreme Court

Controlled Subject

School management and organization; Law

File Format


File Size

6451.2 KB

Degree Grantor

University of Nevada, Las Vegas




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