Lexis Nexis - Case Brief

Not a Lexis Advance subscriber? Try it out for free.

Law School Case Brief

Poling v. Murphy - 872 F.2d 757 (6th Cir. 1989)

Rule:

There is a distinction between personal expression that happens to occur on school premises and expressive activities that are sponsored by the school and may fairly be characterized as part of the school curriculum. Speech sponsored by the school is subject to greater control by school authorities than speech not so sponsored, because educators have a legitimate interest in assuring that participants in the sponsored activity learn whatever lessons the activity is designed to teach. As long as the actions of the educators are reasonably related to legitimate pedagogical concerns, therefore, educators do not offend U.S. Const. amend. I by exercising editorial control over the style and content of student speech in school-sponsored expressive activities. 

Facts:

Plaintiff Dean Poling, an honor student who was subsequently to become president of his senior class, was one of about a dozen juniors who had qualified as candidates for the Unicoi High student council presidency. It was customary for such candidates to give campaign speeches at a school assembly held shortly before the election. He was removed from the election due to rude and discourteous remarks he made during a school assembly. He filed an action in federal district court against the school's principal, defendant Ellis Murphy, and other school administrators. Poling alleged that defendants had violated his U.S. Const. amend. I and XIV rights. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of defendants, and Poling challenged that decision. 

Issue:

Were Poling’s constitutional rights under U.S. Const. amend. I and XIV violated?

Answer:

No.

Conclusion:

The court of appeals ruled that there was a distinction between personal expression that happened to occur on school premises and expressive activities that were sponsored by the school and may fairly be characterized as part of the school curriculum. Speech sponsored by the school was subject to greater control by school authorities than speech not so sponsored, because educators had a legitimate interest in assuring that participants in the sponsored activity learn whatever lessons the activity is designed to teach. As long as the actions of the educators were reasonably related to legitimate pedagogical concerns, therefore, educators did not offend U.S. Const. amend. I by exercising editorial control over the style and content of student speech in school-sponsored expressive activities.

Access the full text case Not a Lexis Advance subscriber? Try it out for free.
Be Sure You're Prepared for Class