Limits to Student Expression as Art

Madison S. - LLI Dayton

I think that students should be able to express themselves through any form of art. Whether it be poems, drawings, narratives, pictures, dances, etc. But, they must not depict the harm of a student or teacher and should not threaten anyone, inside or outside of school. Students should not be allowed to promote or solicit any illegal activity. Students should be able to express their opinions about teachers and other topics. But, threats are simply crossing a line.

A student should not depict a teacher being harmed because this can be seen as a threat: “A picture displaying a drawing of a pistol firing a bullet at a person’s head,” (Wisniewski). This student created a picture that depicted his English teacher being shot in the head and included text under the drawing telling students to kill said teacher. This student was suspended, and rightfully so. He threatened a teacher. If he had simply said he did not like the teacher and expressed that in a nonviolent way, it would be him expressing his opinion not threatening a teacher.

In any form of art students should express themselves. If a student threatens a teacher, whether it was intentional or not, that student has still broken a rule. “The student in Boim wrote a story about a dream she allegedly had of shooting her teacher,” (Boim). I don’t believe she intentionally meant to threaten her teacher. But, the story can still be seen as a threat regardless. There is “no First Amendment right allowing a student to knowingly make comments, whether oral or written, that reasonably could be perceived as a threat of school violence, whether general or specific while on school property during the school day” (Boim). I think that her intentions should be taken into consideration. Overall, slight discipline is still needed.

All students cannot promote any illegal activity. Promoting Illegal activity is a crime in itself. In the “Bong hits for Jesus” case, the student held up a banner promoting drug use. “He displayed a banner reading “BONG HITS 4 JESUS” across the street of his high school” (Morse). He meant it as a joke but, this sign still promotes illegal drug use.

Sources Considered:

  • Bell v. Itawamba Cty. Sch. Bd., 859 F. Supp. 2d 834, 836 (N.D. Miss. 2012).
  • Wallenstein, Andrew. "The Hip-Hop Case the Supreme Court Should Reject." Web blog post. Variety. 22 Feb. 2016. 
  • Liptak, Adam. "Hip Hop Stars Support Mississippi Rapper in First Amendment Case." Web blog post. Sidebar. The New York Times Company, 20 Dec. 2015. 
  • Stern, Mark, J. "Judges Have No Idea What to Do About Student Speech on the Internet." Web blog post. Future Tense. Slate, 18 Feb. 2016.  
  • Crowley, Brian. "Supreme Court Refuses to Provide Clarity on Discipline for Off-Campus, Online Student Speech." Web blog post. Education Law Insights. Lexology, 29 February 2016. 
  • "School was Right to Expel Student Over Violent Poetry." eSchoolNews. Eschool Media Sites. 1 Aug. 2001.