Bethel v Fraser

By Alex Dausch

Issue

A student of Bethel High School, Matthew Fraser, used what some believed to be a graphic sexual metaphor to promote a friend as a nominee for student government during an assembly. The High School then enforced a rule that claimed Fraser's metaphor was "interfering with the educational process including use of obscene, profane language or gestures," and suspended Fraser for 3 days. The question was, did the high school have the ability to discipline Fraser for his speech and did they violate the rights in the first amendment?

Decision

The Court found that the school was not violating the first amendment for disciplining Fraser. It was deemed appropriate to prohibit the use of vulgar/offensive language, and that it was inconsistent with the "values of public school education." There was a difference between the lewd speech Fraser gave and political message of the students in the Tinker v Des Moines case.

Impact

The decision shows that The Court believes certain limitations are permitted of the First Amendment on limiting student expression in schools.