Fill in the Blank: Compelling Student Speech on Religion
23 Pages Posted: 28 Jan 2020
Date Written: December 30, 2019
Using the 2019 Fourth Circuit case of Wood v. Arnold as an example, this Essay explains how courts apply the Free Speech Clause to the public-school setting and aims to clarify the standard under which courts should assess assignments on religion in public schools. It defends the use of the test created in Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier. Although the Court initially created the test for school restrictions on student speech, this Essay argues courts should apply an expanded version of it to compelled speech claims, instead of solely relying on the Supreme Court’s decision in West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette. To withstand judicial scrutiny under the Hazelwood standard, public school curricula touching on religion must ensure two things. First, under the “reasonably related” prong of Hazelwood, the exercise must be part of a mandatory education effort rather than compelled recitation. Second, when assessing the school’s “legitimate pedagogical goals,” academic rather than inculcative goals must be the controlling reason for schools to introduce religion in the required curriculum. A court should consider Barnette in this second step of the analysis. This Essay offers preliminary thoughts on the standard under which courts should assess compelled speech claims arising from classroom exercises, as the Supreme Court has yet to opine on the matter.
Keywords: Tinker, Hazelwood, compelled, student speech, First Amendment, religion, classroom, education, teaching, freedom of speech
JEL Classification: K00, K10, K19, K30, I21
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation