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Discussion Questions - Morse v. Frederick

1. Students' Rights.  Should students be entitled to the same rights as adults while on school property or attending school-supervised events? What arguments can be made for limiting students' rights? What arguments can be made for not limiting students' rights?

2. The Fourth Amendment.  In the majority opinion, Chief Justice Roberts noted that schools can limit more than just a student's First Amendment rights. For instance, random drug tests of student athletes are constitutionally permissible. Is there any difference between limiting a student's rights to freedom of speech versus other rights, e.g., unreasonable searches and seizures?

3. Political Speech.  Who determines what constitutes political speech? What separates advocating illegal drug use (prohibited) from advocating a change in the law to legalize illegal drug use (permitted)? Does the school have an "important," if not "compelling" interest in combating the use of illegal drugs. If so, should this interest override First Amendment concerns?

4. Nonsensical Speech.  The dissent argued that Frederick's speech was "nonsensical." What type of speech does the First Amendment protect? Should "nonsensical" speech be included, or should it be excluded (like fighting words, obscenity, etc.)? Who decides what constitutes "nonsensical" speech?

5. The Principal's Actions.  Both the majority and the dissent agreed that the principal had to make a split-second decision in this case, and therefore should be granted "qualified immunity" from suit for her actions. Do you think that government officials, including principals, should be granted immunity for violating constitutional rights if, in their judgment, a situation calls for immediate action? Give some examples of such situations. Using your examples, what arguments can you make for and against this protection?