BETHEL SCHOOL DISTRICT NO. 403 v. FRASER

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Case Basics
Docket No. 
84-1667
Petitioner 
Bethel School District No. 403
Respondent 
Fraser
Advocates
(Argued the cause for the petitioners)
(Argued the cause for the respondents)
Tags
Term:
Facts of the Case 

At a school assembly of approximately 600 high school students, Matthew Fraser made a speech nominating a fellow student for elective office. In his speech, Fraser used what some observers believed was a graphic sexual metaphor to promote the candidacy of his friend. As part of its disciplinary code, Bethel High School enforced a rule prohibiting conduct which "substantially interferes with the educational process . . . including the use of obscene, profane language or gestures." Fraser was suspended from school for two days.

Question 

Does the First Amendment prevent a school district from disciplining a high school student for giving a lewd speech at a high school assembly?

Conclusion 
Decision: 7 votes for Bethel School District No. 403, 2 vote(s) against
Legal provision: Amendment 1: Speech, Press, and Assembly

No. The Court found that it was appropriate for the school to prohibit the use of vulgar and offensive language. Chief Justice Burger distinguished between political speech which the Court previously had protected in Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District (1969) and the supposed sexual content of Fraser's message at the assembly. Burger concluded that the First Amendment did not prohibit schools from prohibiting vulgar and lewd speech since such discourse was inconsistent with the "fundamental values of public school education."

Cite this Page
BETHEL SCHOOL DISTRICT NO. 403 v. FRASER. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 16 December 2014. <http://www.oyez.org/cases/1980-1989/1985/1985_84_1667>.
BETHEL SCHOOL DISTRICT NO. 403 v. FRASER, The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1980-1989/1985/1985_84_1667 (last visited December 16, 2014).
"BETHEL SCHOOL DISTRICT NO. 403 v. FRASER," The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, accessed December 16, 2014, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1980-1989/1985/1985_84_1667.