Morse v. Frederick

Summary

When Juneau-Douglas High School in Alaska let its students out early to watch the Olympic torch pass, Joseph Frederick, a student, and some of his friends unfurled a banner that said “Bong Hits 4 Jesus.” They’d hoped to get airtime on national television. But they got much more. The school’s principal crumpled up the banner and suspended Frederick for 10 days. Frederick sued and the case made its way to the U.S. Supreme Court. Lambda Legal filed a friend-of-the-court brief in support of Frederick’s right to free speech. We asked the court to reaffirm the same freedoms that have helped us secure the rights of LGBTQ students to be out at school, take a same-sex date to the prom and form gay-straight alliances.

Context

The First Amendment protects a student’s right to freedom of speech, and school officials may not silence student expression just because they dislike it. Since 1969, courts have held that student expression is protected as long as the speech is not lewd, does not interfere with the rights of others or is not disruptive to school.

Lambda Legal's Impact

LGBTQ students have a right to speak freely in and out of the classroom. If the court in this case rules in favor of the school, administrators might believe they are permitted to silence students who come out as gay, lesbian or bisexual by barring any speech or behaviors that express who they are.

History

  • February 2007 Lambda Legal files friend-of-the-court brief with the Supreme Court of the United States.
  • June 2007 The U.S. Supreme Court holds that the student's First Amendment rights were not violated because his banner promoted drug use.

Case Information

Status: Closed

Joseph Frederick

Attorneys

Lambda Legal
Gregory R. Nevins, James P. Madigan