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Is requiring students to wear a school’s logo unconstitutional?

April 16, 2014

By Jeremy Quattlebaum, Student Voices staff writer

The First Amendment protects individuals’ right to express their opinions. But did you know that other side of the free speech clause is that the government can’t force you to say something you don’t want to? The Supreme Court has ruled in cases of coerced speech that the First Amendment protects individuals from expressing opinions that they find offensive.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals recently decided a case in which the issue was whether a public school, acting as the government, can require students to wear a school uniform that bears the school logo and motto, “Tomorrow’s Leaders.”

The parents of two children in Roy Gomm Elementary School in Reno, Nev., said the uniform requirement was coerced speech and violated the students’ First Amendment rights. They said the students were being forced to endorse the belief that leadership was valued and the suggestion that Gomm Elementary produced leaders. The parents said the motto was the school’s opinion and that requiring students to wear the logo that bore the motto was compelled speech.

Students do have abridged free speech rights when in school. Their speech is restricted if it’s disruptive to the school environment, lewd or vulgar, or contradicts the educational mission of the school. But the Gomm Elementary case is about possible compelled speech by the school.

The courts generally have ruled that schools have the right to adopt and enforce school dress policies, even though they acknowledge that clothing is a form of expression. The school defended its uniform policy, saying it was intended to promote “school spirit and unity.”

The appeals court decided that the school requirement violated the students’ First Amendment rights. Its opinion said: “The Roy Gomm Elementary School uniform policy mandates written expression, a message on the shirts above the school logo stating ‘Tomorrow’s Leaders.’… Practically speaking, the Elementary School compels its students to be an instrument for displaying the school motto. Had the uniforms consisted of plain-colored tops and bottoms…, the School would have steered clear of any First Amendment concerns. However, by mandating the written motto on the uniform shirts, the School policy compels speech.”

What do you think?


Is requiring students to wear a school uniform with the motto forced speech? Do you agree with the appeals court’s reasoning? Why is protection against compelled speech important? Join the discussion and let us know what you think!
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Comments
11/17/2014
Murrieta CA
Elizabeth Padilla
Mr. Jabro/ Creekside High
in my opinion, school uniforms do not matter what so ever. your not there to represent your school or how off their logo. your there to get an education and be succesful, dressing in a uniform is not going to get you an education.

11/14/2014
Stroudburg pa
David
Mr Hana SJHS
If you don't want to where a school logo you Don't need to. If you don't like the school or The logo don't where it

11/13/2014
Stroudsburg, PA
Brianne
Mr. Hanna/Stroudsburg JHS
I believe that requiring students to wear a school uniform with the motto is forced speech. If someone is forced to wear a motto that they do not believe in, it violates their rights under the First Amendment. I do agree with the appeals court's reasoning. Protection against compelled speech is significant because we should support something we do not believe in.

11/13/2014
Stroudsburg, Pa
Alexa
mr.Hanna sjhs
I think police should be able to search your phone without a warrant with only some things. Photos and texts could be private, But social media and website history shouldn't be that private unless you're trying to hide something. I think that police should need a warrant to search your photos and texts but not for history and social media.

11/13/2014
Stroudsburg/PA
Bartek
Hanna/Stroudsburg JHS
Yes, I think that requireing students to wear a logo with the school motto is forced speech because I belive that students should not be told what to wear. It is also a problem for many people because it is forcing parents to buy special uniforms(usually more expensive than regular clothes). I think students should not be told what to wear, especially with school motto on it.

11/13/2014
Stroudsburg, PA
Hana
Mr. Hanna/Stroudsburg JHS
I believe that school uniform is forced speech. By making someone wear something that they don't want to wear or having them "express school spirit", you are forcing them to think a certain way which is a violation of the first amendment. Why should students dress a certain way when their personality is hidden? I do agree with the appeals court's reasoning. Protection against compelled speech is important because the Amendments were made for a reason and we shouldn't violate them.

11/12/2014
Stroudsburg PA
Lia
Mr.Hanna/Stroudsburg JHS
I believe that no student should have to wear a school logo. They should be able to wear any school appropriate logo but a required school logo. It's unconstitutional because it violates the First Amendment which protects individual rights is often violated and shouldn't be especially over a school logo.

11/12/2014
s
Quinn
Mr. Hanna/Stroudsburg JHS
I think it is forced speech. I say this because if you are making someone say or endorse something without them agreeing to it before hand it is a violation of there independence, freedom of expression, and freedom of speech. I do agree with the appeals court's reasoning. Protection against compelled speech is important because none of our rights as Americans should be violated exspicially those clearly stated by the First Ammendment.

10/16/2014
Murrieta,CA
Vivian Cabral
Mr.Jabro/Creekside HS
I think that a school requiring students to wear a schools logo is not right. I believe the student should have the choice to wear what they like. A student should not be told that they have to represent they school if they do not want to. There are kids who do not like going to the school they attend but do not have the choice to attend a different school, so why should they have to wear closes with their schools logo. It is forced speech because the students would have no say in what he or she wears to school. I do agree with the courts.

9/17/2014
Virginia
Bridget
Dr. Hunnycutt
If the school enforces a dress code or forces kids to wear the school logo, it violates the freedom of practicing their religion (in some cases) and their freedom of expression. Of course having some restrictions in what is "appropriate" is required. I believe it is forced speech.

9/6/2014
Murrieta CA
Lily
Mr.Jabro Creekside Highschool
I think that a school requiring students to wear a school logo or motto is against the rules. It is forced speech because the student has no say in what he/she wears to school because it will most likely come with a uniform. It could also cause problems for the student if they have a bully or stalker,seeing as the school logo is right there printed in bold letters on the students shirt,said stalker would know exactly where to find them. So it also offends safety rights. I do agree with the courts reasoning.

8/25/2014
temecula ca
angel
jabro creekside
i believe its unconstitutional to control what we wear at all, like what does it matter to not be wearing a school logo? what REALLY happens? because honestly< there has never been a riot because of kids not wearing a stupid school logo that just wants you to wear it so they some kind of control over you. i hate the government

6/12/2014
Stroudsburg,PA
Shaydra
Mr. Hannah
Yes because the students are wearing it and also its the schools motto and opinion. Yes because as long as it is what it says then that is what they mean. i think it is important because they tell you what is right and wrong about the situation. And also its part of the rights that we have to follow.

6/12/2014
Stroudsburg, PA
Christian G
Mr.Hanna/Stroudsburg JHS
Yes requiring students to wear a logo with the school motto is forced speech because you are making the students put something on their shirt that is what the school wants. No I do not agree with the appeals courts reasoning because clothes for some people may be a way to express yourself and wearing a logo is making you represent something that you might not want to represent. Protection against compelled speech is important because it's part of our rights.

6/12/2014
Stroudsburg, PA
Caitlin P.
Mr.Hanna/Stroudsburg JHS
I think requiring kids to wear school uniform with the motto is forced speech. I think it's perfectly fine to wear regular school Uniform, but making them wear a motto they may not agree with is unconstitutional in my opinion. Just because some people agree with the motto doesn't mean everyone does, which is why I think they shouldn't be forced to wear something they may not believe in.

6/12/2014
Stroudsburg, PA
Amanda A.
Mr. Hanna/ Stroudsburg JHS
I believe that requiring students to wear a school's logo is unconstitutional. I do agree with the court's reasoning. I feel as though the schools are pushing students to be showing the school motto. I do agree with the article about schools having a plain-colored top and bottom, but I don't believe having the motto is Constitutional. It is an example of forced speech. Although, students do have limited rights when they enter the school building, but they should have a right to be okay with the things that are displayed on their clothing.

6/12/2014
Stroudsburg, PA
Mariah L
Mr. Hanna/ Stroudsburg JHS
I think requiring these students to wear the motto is forced speech. I do agree with the court's reasoning. It's okay to have students wear normal uniforms but to have the motto is forcing them to wear something they might not agree with. Protection against compelled speech is important because it's apart of our rights.

6/11/2014
Stroudsburg, PA
Charles
Mr. Hanna/Stroudsburg JHS
I think requiring students to wear the school uniform with the motto is forced speech because unless that is what the students think it is forced. I agree wit the appeals court's reasoning. I think the protection against compelled speech is important because students should have the right of speech and as long as tthe students don't agree with the motto being on their clothes it is unconstitutional.

6/11/2014
Stroudsburg/PA
Brooke M
Mr. Hanna/Stroudsburg JHS
In my opinion, I believe that requiring students to wear a school uniform with the motto is forced speech. I agree with the appeals court's reasoning because I do not agree that a school should be aloud to force you to represent them. Yes, school spirit is important but the uniforms should be plain tops and bottoms. Writing the schools motto on the shirts compels speech. Protection against compelled speech is definitely important because nobody should be able to force you to do or represent anything you don't want to.

6/11/2014
Stroudsburg, PA
Taylor M
Mr. Hanna/Stroudsburg JHS
I don't think it is unconstitutional for schools to require kids to wear the school logo. However, I don't think they should force kids to wear it. I don't agree with the court's opinion and I don't think its a protection against compelled speech.

6/11/2014
Stroudsburg
Sydney L
Mr. Hanna/Stroudsburg JHS
I do not think that having to wear a school logo is unconstitutional. If the school wants you to wear their logo it's to promote the school. They are obviously proud to have you as one of their students so they want you to show off their logo!

5/22/2014
Washington / NJ
John General
Mrs. Rokosny / Warren Hills Regional High School
I do not agree with the court’s opinion that such an act of valuing leadership via a motto on the school uniform is an act of forced speech, as the motto reflects upon the educational and civic goals of the school who has the right to impose conformity among the student population to provoke these educational and civic values. Outside of that I am aware that the Supreme Court has continually stated that students do not sacrifice their first amendment right upon entering school doors, but in this case, I believe the motto is further proposing the school’s core curriculum, which in itself does not just pertain to the traditional academic courses. I believe the school’s job along with educating students is to, as the motto goes, creating “tomorrow’s leaders.” As for the motto, it is in no way vulgar or offensive thus the school holds onto their right to mandate the motto on the school uniforms as part of advocating the school’s mission of excellence.

5/6/2014
Sidney Montana
Jared
Mr. Faulhaber/Sidney High School
I agree with appeals court's reasoning. I feel the school is compeling students to be desplaying the school motto. I agree with the article that the school should have consisted a plain-colored tops and bottoms but I could understand maybe the school mascot and the name of the school, not the motto. I agree with Kristyn with her statment of wearing a uniform with the school's motto is an example of forced speech. The first amendment states Congress shall make no law prohibiting the free exercise there of; or abridging the freedom of speech. I also agree with Kristyn when she states that a uniform should be plain because then it doesn't interfere with someone's freedom of speech to where they complain. She then goes on to state that protection against compelled speech is important because along with the right to say what we want, we also have the right to not say or think that way just like with the freedom of religion. I feel students do have limited rights when they step foot into the school but they schould have a right to choose what their shirt says or have a blank shirt in the first place.

5/6/2014
Sidney Montana
Jared
Mr. Faulhaber/Sidney High School
I agree with appeals court's reasoning. I feel the school is compeling students to be desplaying the school motto. I agree with the article that the school should have consisted a plain-colored tops and bottoms but I could understand maybe the school mascot and the name of the school, not the motto. I agree with Kristyn with her statment of wearing a uniform with the school's motto is an example of forced speech. The first amendment states Congress shall make no law prohibiting the free exercise there of; or abridging the freedom of speech. I also agree with Kristyn when she states that a uniform should be plain because then it doesn't interfere with someone's freedom of speech to where they complain. She then goes on to state that protection against compelled speech is important because along with the right to say what we want, we also have the right to not say or think that way just like with the freedom of religion. I feel students do have limited rights when they step foot into the school but they schould have a right to choose what their shirt says or have a blank shirt in the first place.

5/6/2014
North Star High School
Quinn Spinler
Mrs. Campbell
I do not agree with the appeals court's reasoning. The motto is not compelling the student's speech, it is only telling the schools mission. Speech is restricted at school and you are not allowed to wear anything that contradicts the educational mission of the school. When these parents didn't want the motto on the uniform, they were doing worse than making their kids wear clothing that contradicts the educational mission. They are committing actions against the school's educational mission. Because this is an infringement on the school's right, I believe the kids should have to wear the motto for the plain fact that the motto is not obscene or offensive, and that it outlines the goal of the school.

5/6/2014
Rudyard/MT
Sarah
Mrs. Campbell/North Star
I do not agree with the court of appeals decision in this case. A school has the right to stop the use of vulgar and lewd speech, however, the motto "Tomorrow’s Leaders" is not. This motto completely supports what the school stands for, teaching their students to lead America into a new age. The school is simply displaying its message which its students are promoting by attending there. Schools also have the right to have their students wear uniforms to cause school unity. What better way to promote unity than to have everyone know what they are tying to become in the future? If the parents don't like it, than they have the right to transfer their students to another school that doesn't require a dress code.

5/6/2014
Rudyard / MT
Kristyn
Campbell / North Star
Wearing a uniform with the school's motto is an example of forced speech. There is a difference between uniforms and uniforms with the motto. Uniforms are for common good and done for unity or to cease inappropriate clothing. Someone can attend a school and not truly believe in the motto though. I agree with the appeals court's reasoning on the case because the school is definitely using the students to show the greatness and good reputation of the school. A uniform should be plain because then it doesn't interfere with someone's freedom of speech to where they complain like this. Protection against compelled speech is important because along with the right to say what we want, we also have the right to not say or think that way just like with the freedom of religion.

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