Free Speech and Protecting Our Kids

A high school student in Kentucky sued his school district for the
creation of a policy that barred him from expressing his opposition
to homosexuality. As a Christian, Timothy Morrison believes it is
his duty to denounce behavior that does not adhere to his
definition of morality.

The policy was later changed to exempt speech that would otherwise
be protected off-campus and Morrison’s lawsuit was
. This case made me think about how the issue of free
speech should be interpreted in a school setting.

Free speech is an incredibly valuable and precious right. It allows
us to express ourselves and our views without consequence,
regardless of the general opinion of those views – whether it’s
being anti-war or anti-gay. We can disagree with one another and
virulently oppose particular views, fighting what we consider to be
unfavorable speech with more speech. Of course, this is easier said
than done.

As adults, we have the social and emotional capacity to deal with
prejudice and harsh attitudes. We understand that people are free
to believe and say whatever it is they want to. But many times when
we are faced with bigotry or intolerance ourselves, it is difficult
to deal with the emotions and issues these instances can conjure.
Being accosted for an aspect of your identity can be quite jarring;
disturbing, even.

How then, can anyone reasonably suggest that elementary, middle and
high school-aged children, at varying levels of development, should
simply deal with the psychological and too often, physical damage
that bullying in schools causes?

When children are required by law to go to school for eight hours a
day, five days a week with peers with whom they are forced to
interact and engage in classrooms, hallways, sports teams and
social clubs, it is imperative that policies be instituted to
protect them from undue persecution.

These policies are not infringements on speech, but rather steps
toward preventing the creation of a hostile learning environment
for some students. The absence of comprehensive anti-harassment
policies in schools is a complicit endorsement of this singling out
and discrimination.

Putting policies in place to protect students who, based on their
identities, are more likely to be (or have a history of being)
persecuted and victimized is essential to ensure that every student
is granted their fundamental right to an education.

We at the Family Equality Council strongly advocate for
anti-harassment policies in schools that protect students from
bullying and acts of bias.

If you are interested in using your capacity as a parent to
implement a policy in your school or district, refer to our
Making Schools Safe & Inclusive: A Model Nondiscrimination
or contact us for assistance at