FNA Student Rights and Responsibilities: Student Expression


The School shall take no action respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Board for a redress of grievances. U.S. Const. Amend. I

Freedom of Speech

Students do not shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate. At school and school events, students have First Amendment rights, applied in light of the special characteristics of the school environment.

Student expression that is protected by the First Amendment may not be prohibited absent a showing that the expression will materially and substantially interfere with the operation of the School or the rights of others.

Tinker v. Des Moines Indep. Cmty. Sch. Dist., 393 U.S. 503, 89 S. Ct. 733 (1969) [See also FNCI]

The inculcation of fundamental values necessary to the maintenance of a democratic society is part of the work of the School. The First Amendment does not prevent school officials from determining that particular student expression is vulgar and lewd, and therefore contrary to the school’s basic educational mission. Bethel Sch. Dist. No. 403 v. Fraser, 478 U.S. 675, 106 S. Ct. 3159 (1986)

Prayer at school activities

A TSBVI student has an absolute right to individually, voluntarily, and silently pray or meditate in school in a manner that does not disrupt the instructional or other activities of the School. A TSBVI student shall not be required, encouraged, or coerced to engage in or refrain from such prayer or meditation during any school activity. Education Code 25.901

Nothing in the Constitution as interpreted by the U.S. Supreme Court prohibits any TSBVI school student from voluntarily praying at any time before, during, or after the schoolday. But the religious liberty protected by the Constitution is abridged when a district affirmatively sponsors the particular religious practice of prayer.

The School shall not adopt a policy that establishes an improper majoritarian election on religion and has the purpose and creates the perception of encouraging the delivery of prayer at a series of important school events.

Santa Fe Indep. Sch. Dist. v. Doe, 530 U.S. 290, 120 S. Ct. 2266 (2000)

Federal funds

As a condition of receiving certain federal funds, the School shall certify in writing to TEA that no School policy prevents, or otherwise denies participation in, constitutionally protected prayer in the School, as detailed in the guidance from the United States secretary of education regarding constitutionally protected prayer. The certification shall be provided by October 1 of each year.

By November 1 of each year, TEA shall report to the secretary a list of districts that have not filed the certification or against which complaints have been made to TEA that the district is not in compliance with the paragraph above. The secretary may issue and secure compliance with rules or orders with respect to a district that fails to certify, or is found to have certified in bad faith, that no policy of the district prevents, or otherwise denies participation in, constitutionally protected prayer in public schools.

No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 Sec. 9524, Pub. L. No. 107-110, 115 Stat. 1980-81 (2002) (to be codified at 20 U.S.C. 7904)


The School may officially encourage students to express love for the United States by reciting historical documents or singing official anthems that contain religious references; such patriotic or ceremonial occasions do not constitute a school-sponsored religious exercise. Engel v. Vitale, 370 U.S. 421, 82 S. Ct. 1261 (1962)

The School shall not, however, compel students to participate in patriotic observances. West Virginia State Bd. of Educ. v. Barnette, 319 U.S. 624, 63 S. Ct. 1178 (1943) (holding unconstitutional a requirement that students salute the United States flag and recite the Pledge of Allegiance)

Adopted: 11/13/81

Amended: 5/30/86, 11/17/95, 5/25/04

Reviewed: 11/19/99