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Elk Grove USD  |  BP  5145.2  Students

Freedom Of Speech/Expression: Publications Code   

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Free inquiry and exchange of ideas are essential parts of a democratic education. The Board of Education respects students' rights to express ideas and opinions, take stands, and support causes, whether controversial or not. The Board recognizes that there are opportunities provided at schools for student expression. Student liberties of expression shall be limited on a nondiscriminatory 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.

Student expression is defined as the faculty or act of expressing or describing thoughts, feelings, or perceptions through the articulation of words, silence, symbols, mode of dress, distribution of materials, posting of written materials, school newspaper, bulletin boards, internet or other conduct.


1. The Board prohibits any student expressions which it reasonably believes will clearly and directly incite students to commit unlawful acts on school premises, violate school rules, invade the rights of other students or substantially disrupt the school's orderly operation, including individual classrooms. This includes, but is not limited to, expressions in association with protests and demonstrations, school dances, school bulletin boards and school newspapers.

2. The Board prohibits any expressions or materials which are obscene, libelous or slanderous. For the purposes of this policy, "obscene" shall mean expression or materials objectionable or offensive to contemporary community standards and lacking serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value. "Libelous" shall mean any publication that is injurious to the reputation of another. "Slander" shall mean the speaking of false and malicious words concerning another; whereby injury results to his or her reputation.

3. The Board prohibits any student expression that incites students as to create a clear and present danger of the commission of unlawful acts on school premises, or the violation of school rules.

4. The Board prohibits any student's use of "fighting words," including epithets or gestures, if the speech is abusive and insulting rather than a communication of ideas, and the speech is used in an abusive manner in a situation that presents an actual danger that it will cause a breach of the peace.

Clothing, Buttons and Badges

Buttons, badges, arm bands and clothing bearing slogans or sayings may be worn, unless their message falls into the categories prohibited by law and/or a Board Policy. No employee shall interfere with this practice on the grounds that the message may be unpopular with students or faculty.

Bulletin Boards

1. No student expression whether sponsored by an individual or submitted by students or student clubs or organizations may be permanently affixed to, painted on or otherwise attached to any school building in the district. Current murals or other art work may remain for a reasonable period of time to be determined by the Superintendent.

a. This policy governing bulletin boards does not apply to bulletin boards which are provided for students and student organizations to post materials.

b. This policy governing bulletin boards does not apply to any school symbol or mascot which may be adopted by a school subject to approval by the principal and permanently affixed to a school building or placed on school grounds.

2. The principal or designee may provide bulletin boards on which students and student organizations may post materials of general interest, subject to the limitations set forth herein.

3. All posted notices shall include the name and address and contact location of the school or group issuing the notice.

4. All material shall be dated before posting so that it can be removed after a reasonable time, no later than 60 days.

Distribution of Printed Material and Petitions

1. Subject to the limitations set forth in this policy, Students shall be free to distribute handbills, leaflets and other printed materials, whether produced within or outside the school. Students may collect signatures on petitions concerning either school or out-of-school issues.

2. Printed materials or petitions may only be distributed:

a. Before or after school or during lunch time.

b. In locations that do not obstruct the normal flow of pedestrian or vehicle traffic within school or at its entrances

c. Without undue noise,

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

e. 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.

Off-Campus Expression

1. Off-campus student expression, including but not limited to student expression on off- campus Internet web sites, is generally constitutionally protected but shall be subject to discipline when such expression poses a direct threat to the safety of students or school personnel.

2. Conduct by a student outside of class which for any reason materially disrupts classwork or involves substantial disorder or invasion of the rights of others is not protected by the constitutional guarantee of free speech.

Internet/On-Line Media

Student expressions on district or school Internet web sites and on-line media shall generally be afforded the same protections as print media.


The Superintendent or designee shall maintain regulations for resolving disputes regarding student freedom of expression. Such regulations shall require that the student and faculty member themselves attempt to resolve the problem before consulting the administrative staff. As a final step, such regulations shall provide for a hearing to determine whether a deprivation of freedom of expression was justified under these rules. The hearing shall be held before the Board or an impartial person appointed by the Board as soon as possible after the hearing is requested. Both sides shall be given the opportunity to demonstrate that the policy in question was properly applied.

(cf. 6145.3 -Publications)

(cf. 6145.5 -Organizations/Associations)


The Superintendent or his designee shall not discipline any high school 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.)

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: October 29, 1984 Elk Grove, California

amended: February 20, 1990

revised: February 22, 1994

revised: October 20, 2003