Law & Courts Federal File

Student Speech on the Docket?

By Andrew Trotter — November 28, 2006 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

One case is about a student whom school officials punished for raising a “Bong Hits for Jesus” banner at a school-sponsored parade. The other features two students who went to school wearing T-shirts with messages critical of gays and were disciplined as a result.

The appeals offer the U.S. Supreme Court different takes on the same red-hot question: What are the constitutional contours of students’ free-speech rights?

But whether the high court will answer the question remained secret as of press time early last week. The court hears just 1 percent of the thousands of appeals it receives each year, with the nine justices voting to take or decline cases at weekly conferences throughout their term.

The justices don’t explain publicly why they decline or accept an appeal in a given case. But court watchers study the tea leaves of the court’s docket and schedules.

For example, the “bong hits” case, Morse v. Frederick (Case No. 06-278), has been listed on the agenda for the court’s past four private conferences running—a somewhat unusual pattern—with no action on the Juneau, Alaska, school district’s appeal of a decision against it in March by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit.

And on Nov. 1, the students in the T-shirt case, Harper v. Poway Unified School District (No. 06-595), appealing a 9th Circuit ruling for the Poway, Calif., district, asked the justices to expedite consideration of their appeal.

That motion was on the agenda for the court’s Nov. 21 private conference, as was the “bong hits” case, which would allow the justices, at least tentatively, to chat about both cases together. Otherwise, the Harper case was not likely to be considered for a month or more.

At least four justices must vote to accept a case, but expediting requires five votes, said Lyle Denniston, who has covered the court for over 40 years for various news organizations. Several successive listings of an appeal on the conference lists can mean merely that a justice has asked that the decision be rolled over. Or the justices may have voted to decline the case, but at least one is writing a dissent and needs more time.

Mr. Denniston pointed out that the court has granted the Poway district an extension until Dec. 28 to file its response to the students’ appeal. “That suggests to me fairly strongly that they aren’t thinking of granting a motion to expedite,” Mr. Denniston said last week.

Related Tags:

A version of this article appeared in the November 29, 2006 edition of Education Week

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Assessment Webinar
The State of Assessment in K-12 Education
What is the impact of assessment on K-12 education? What does that mean for administrators, teachers and most importantly—students?
Content provided by Instructure
Jobs January 2022 Virtual Career Fair for Teachers and K-12 Staff
Find teaching jobs and other jobs in K-12 education at the EdWeek Top School Jobs virtual career fair.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Reading & Literacy Webinar
Proven Strategies to Improve Reading Scores
In this webinar, education and reading expert Stacy Hurst will provide a look at some of the biggest issues facing curriculum coordinators, administrators, and teachers working in reading education today. You will: Learn how schools
Content provided by Reading Horizons

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Law & Courts Arizona Sues Biden to Keep School Anti-Mask Rules
At issue are two state programs the Republican governor created last summer that use federal COVID-19 relief money.
4 min read
FILE — Arizona Republican Gov. Doug Ducey gives his state of the state address at the Arizona Capitol, Monday, Jan. 10, 2022, in Phoenix. Ducey sued the Biden administration, Friday, Jan. 21, 2022, over its demand that the state stop sending millions in federal COVID-19 relief money to schools that don't have mask requirements or that close due to COVID-19 outbreaks. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, File)
Law & Courts U.S. Supreme Court to Hear Major Cases on Affirmative Action in Education
The outcome could affect K-12 policies when the justices rule on race-based policies at Harvard and the University of North Carolina.
3 min read
A man talks on his phone on the steps of Harvard University's Widener Library, in Cambridge, Mass. on June 26, 2020.
The U.S. Supreme Court agreed to take up major cases on affirmative action in admissions at Harvard University, above, and at the University of North Carolina.
Elise Amendola/AP
Law & Courts Supreme Court to Hear Case of Coach Who Prayed After Games in Defiance of School District
The U.S. Supreme Court will consider whether school districts may prohibit private religious expression by public school employees.
4 min read
Former Bremerton High School assistant football coach Joe Kennedy is in a conflict with the Bremerton, 
Wash., school district over his silent prayer after games.
Former Bremerton High School assistant football coach Joseph A. Kennedy stands at on the 50-yard line at Bremerton Memorial Stadium. The U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear an appeal over his dismissal for praying after football games.
Larry Steagall/Kitsap Sun via AP
Law & Courts Supreme Court Blocks Biden Vaccine Mandate Applying to Schools in Much of the Country
The justices ruled 6-3 to stay an Occupational Health and Safety Administration rule that covered schools in 26 states and two territories.
4 min read
Members of the Supreme Court pose for a group photo last April.
The U.S. Supreme Court blocked a federal vaccine mandate for large employers, including school districts in about half the states.
Erin Schaff/The New York Times via AP