Rejuvenating Free Expression: An Argument for Minors’ First Amendment Rights

Rejuvenating Free Expression: An Argument for Minors’ First Amendment Rights

In 1996, Congress conditioned federal aid to sex education programs on their adoption of “abstinence only” pedagogy. Instructors must teach that “sexual activity outside of the context of marriage is likely to have harmful psychological and physical effects,” and that “abstinence from sexual activity is the only certain way” to prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. Information about condoms or other means of avoiding pregnancy or HIV is forbidden.

Two years later, a federal appeals court rejected a First Amendment academic freedom claim by a high school drama teacher who had coached her advanced acting class in an award-winning performance of a play called Independence. The teacher, Margaret Boring, had been transferred to a junior high school and stripped of her theater specialty after a parent complained that the play’s themes included divorce, homosexuality, and unwed pregnancy. The court cited Plato’s Republic in support of its ruling that teachers have no First Amendment rights in connection with school curriculum:

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Lima