Bethel v. Fraser

Background information

Matthew Fraser was giving a speech at a school assembly in front of 600 classmates at Bethel High School. He was nominating a fellow student for a position in the elective office. In his speech, people claimed that he made sexual comments that he thought would boost the popularity of the candidate. Bethel High School has a rule which prohibits the use of lewd, obscene, and sexual language. Due to his comment, he was suspended for two days. Shortly after, the case began on March 3, 1986.
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Constitutional Significance
The big question of the case was does the First Amendment freedom of speech protect Fraser after he performed an inappropriate speech? Can the school be prevented from disciplining him when they have the right of reserved powers in the Tenth Amendment?
No, at the end of the case on, July 7th, 1986, the court found that the school was justified in their decision. Chief Justice Burger used Tinker vs. Des Moines as a precedent. He said that the First Amendment protects political speeches, like in Tinker vs. Des Moines, but not the sexual comments made by Fraser. Burger agreed that schools are not prohibited from banning vulgar and inappropriate language because of the reserved rights of the states (Tenth Amendment.) They put the “fundamental values of the public school education” first.

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Important Concepts
The First Amendment grants people the right to freedom of speech. They are protected by law to express how they feel. But however, the Tenth Amendment, gives the states reserved powers to limit the students free speech so it does not interfere with their education, which is why Fraser lost his case.

Above is Judge Warren E. bURGER.

BY: Natasha Bowers & Mansour Njie