Cracking Open the Classroom Door: Developing a First Amendment Standard for Curricular Speech

Tygesson, Nicholas K. | July 1, 2013

Around this country, courts have found that the discharge of public school teachers for their classroom speech does not implicate the First Amendment. Others have protected this speech, but only by importing analytical approaches from other areas of law ill suited to the unique interests at play in America’s public schools. The resulting patchwork of doctrinal approaches provides little clarity for courts and only illusory protection for teachers. This Note will start from scratch, examining the first principles at play in public school classrooms and tailoring a First Amendment approach to respect the needs of government, teachers, and students. When determining if the First Amendment protects classroom speech, the teacher’s interest in speaking on matters of legitimate pedagogical concern should be balanced against the school’s interest in providing an effective educational environment.