Morse v. Frederick - Information and Resources

Document Date: February 27, 2007

On Morse v. Frederick:
“With that slogan, he’s proven once and for all that teens, with their creativity, curiosity and (to some), outrageous sense of humor, are naturals when it comes to holding the First Amendment to the test of time, even in these times.”
– Mary Beth Tinker

Joseph Frederick was suspended in 2002 for displaying a sign saying “Bong Hits 4 Jesus” at a rally for the Olympic torch relay. The rally was an off-campus event not sponsored by Frederick’s school. A federal appeals court agreed with the ACLU that the school had violated Frederick’s right to free speech. The Supreme Court heard the case during the 2006 term and ruled that Alaska public school officials did not violate Joseph Frederick’s free speech rights by punishing him. In a criticism of the decision, Steven R. Shapiro said, “The Court’s ruling imposes new restrictions on student speech rights and creates a drug exception to the First Amendment.” Read more >>

The Supreme Court’s ruling is also a judgment on whether Tinker v. Des Moines, the test for virtually all student speech cases since 1969, remains good law. In Tinker, the Supreme Court said that young people do not “shed their constitutional rights at the schoolhouse gate,” ruling that students have the right to free speech at school, as long as their speech does not disrupt the educational process.

> See case documents in Morse v. Frederick
> Learn more about Tinker v. Des Moines
> ACLU News on Student Speech
> Student Speech Needs Protection (Tonawanda News, off-site)


Mary Beth Tinker, plaintiff in the 1969 Supreme Court free speech case Tinker v. Des Moines, discusses First Amendment rights with Joseph Frederick.
podcast |streaming

Plaintiff Joseph Frederick, his attorney Doug Mertz, and ACLU legal director Steven Shapiro talk about student free speech rights.
podcast | streaming


> Free-speech advocates and attorneys speak from the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court after oral arguments in Morse v. Frederick. (YouTube)


Courtesy of the Frederick Family
Frederick in a high school yearbook photo

Courtesy of Joseph Frederick
Frederick shortly after arriving in China

Photo obtained from court docket, Courtesy of Clay Good
Frederick displaying the banner at a 2002 rally for the Olympic torch relay

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