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Bonita USD |  BP  5145.2  Students

Freedom Of Speech/Expression   

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Free inquiry and exchange of ideas are essential parts of a democratic education. The Governing Board respects students' rights to express ideas and opinions, take stands, and support causes, whether controversial or not. Student liberties of expression shall be limited on a non-discriminatory basis only as allowed by law in order to maintain an orderly school environment and to protect the rights, health and safety of all members of the school community. Prior restraint shall be exercised only when student expression violates the limitations set forth in this policy.

Students shall have the right to exercise freedom of speech and of the press including, but not limited to, the use of bulletin boards; the distribution of printed materials or petitions; the wearing of buttons, badges, and other insignia; and the right of expression in official publications. (Education Code 48907)

Student expression on district or school Internet Web sites and online media will be afforded the same protections as in print media.


In keeping with the California Education Code, the Board prohibits any expressions or materials which are obscene, libelous or slanderous according to current legal definitions.

The Board likewise prohibits expressions or materials which so incite students as to create a clear and present danger of the commission of unlawful acts on school premises, violate school rules, or causes a substantial disruption of the school's orderly operation, as determined by the Superintendent or designee. (Education Code 48907)

The use of "fighting words", epithets or symbols is prohibited in those instances where the speech or graphic is abusive and insulting, rather than a communication of ideas, and the speech or graphic is used in an abusive manner in a situation that presents an actual danger that it will cause a breach of the peace.

Printed materials shall be submitted to the principal for review prior to distribution or posting to ensure that they are allowed according to the limitations listed above.

Printed materials or petitions shall be distributed only at reasonable times and places and ways:

1. Before school begins, during lunch time, and after dismissal

2. In locations that do not obstruct the normal flow of traffic within school or at entrances

3. Without undue noise, and without any use of coercion

Students shall be subject to disciplinary action as a result of any expressions which do not conform to the above limitations.

School officials shall not restrict the inclusion of material prepared for official school publications except insofar as the content of the material violates the law. (Education Code 48907)

Bulletin Boards

Bulletin boards shall be provided where students and student organizations may post materials relating to out-of-school activities or matters of general interest.

All posted notices shall include the name and address or contact location of the student or group issuing the notice. All materials shall be dated before posting so that it can be removed after a reasonable time.

Printed materials shall be submitted to the principal for review at least three school days prior to posting to ensure they satisfy the requirements of this policy.

Distribution of Printed Material and Petitions

Students shall be free to distribute handbills, leaflets and other printed material, whether produced within or outside of the school unless their message or the manner of distribution falls within the prohibited categories described above (Limitations). Students may collect signatures on petitions concerning either school or out-of-school issues.

No student shall use coercion to induce students or any other persons to accept printed matter or to sign petitions. No funds or donations shall be collected for any material distributed.

All printed matter and petitions distributed or circulated on school property shall bear the name and the address or contact location of the sponsoring organization or individual.

Printed materials shall be submitted to the principal for review at least three school days prior to posting to ensure they satisfy the requirements of this policy.

Clothing/Buttons and Badges

Buttons, badges, armbands or clothing bearing slogans or sayings may be worn unless their message falls within the prohibited categories described above (Limitations). No teacher or administrator shall attempt to interfere with this practice on the grounds that the message may be unpopular with students or faculty.


The Superintendent, or designee, shall not discipline any student solely on the basis of speech or other communication that would be constitutionally protected when engaged in outside of school, but may impose discipline for harassment, threats, or intimidation unless constitutionally protected. (Education Code 48950)

Off-Campus Expression

A student shall be subject to discipline for off-campus expression, including expression on off-campus Internet Web sites, when such expression is obscene, libelous or slanderous, or when such expression poses a threat to the safety of other students, staff, or school property, or substantially disrupts the educational program. The Superintendent, or designee, shall document the impact the expression had or could be expected to have on the school program.

All disputes regarding student freedom of speech or expression shall be resolved using the district's established complaint procedures.

Legal Reference:


48907 Exercise of free expression; rules and regulations

48950 Speech and other communication

51520 Prohibited solicitations on school premises


4071-4074 Equal Access Act


Article 1, Section 2 Freedom of speech and expression


Amendment 1 Freedom of speech and expression


Smith v. Novato Unified School District, (2007) 150 Cal.App.4th 1439

Lavine v. Blaine School District, (2001) 257 F.3d 981

Emmett v. Kirkland School District No. 415, (2000) 92 F.Supp. 2d 1088

J.S. v. Bethlehem Area School District, (2000) 757 A.2d 412 (Pa. Commw. 2000)

Beussink v. Woodland R-IV School District, (1998) 30 F.Supp. 2d 1175

Muller v. Jefferson Lighthouse School, (1996) 98 F.3d 1530

Lovell v. Poway Unified School District, (1996) 90 F.3d 367

Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier, (1988) 108 S. Ct. 562

Leeb v. DeLong, (1988) 198 Cal.App.3d 47

Bethel School District No. 403 v. Fraser, (1986) 478 U.S. 675

Bright v. Los Angeles Unified School District, (1976) 18 Cal. 3d 350

Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District, (1969) 393 U.S. 503

Management Resources:


Limitations on Student Expression in School-Sponsored Publications, March 4, 1988



California Department of Education:


adopted: June 22, 2016 San Dimas, California