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Freedom of Expression Policy

Summit Public Schools (“Summit”) believes that free inquiry and exchange of ideas are essential components of education. Summit respects students’ rights to express ideas and opinions, take stands on issues, and support causes, even when such expression is controversial or unpopular.

Students have a legal right to exercise freedom of speech, expression, 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, whether or not the publications or other means of expression are supported financially by the school or by use of school facilities.

At the same time, the law is clear that a student’s right of free expression is not unfettered and that the Freedom of Speech, Expression, and the Press protections do not prevent a school from imposing certain restrictions and/or imparting discipline for certain forms of speech or expression that may be considered disruptive to the community, in violation of school policies and/or considered harassment, bullying, threats and/or intimidation. Summit reserves the right to place reasonable time, place and manner restrictions on any expression if the faculty and/or administration determine that such a restriction is appropriate.

Additionally, some forms of student expression may be absolutely restricted. These include:

  • Expression that creates or threatens danger, and/or unlawful acts.
  • Expression that threatens or presents a violation of Summit Public Schools’ Policy on Harassment, Intimidation, Discrimination and Bullying.
  • Expression that creates or threatens a substantial disruption of the orderly operation of the school.
  • Expression that impinges on the rights of others.
  • Vulgar, lewd, obscene, and plainly offensive speech or conduct; and
  • Expression that is libelous or slanderous.
Distribution of Circulars, Newspapers, and Other Printed Matter

Distribution of Circulars, Newspapers, and Other Printed Matter

Students shall be allowed to distribute circulars, leaflets, newspapers, and pictorial or other printed matter, and to circulate petitions, subject to the following specific limitations:

  • Leaflets, pictorial and other printed matter to be distributed shall be submitted to the Summit school site Administrator designee at least one school day prior to distribution.
  • Distribution, free or for a fee, may take place at any time except during instructional time and providing there is no substantial disruption in the school programs (as determined by the Summit school site Administrator).
  • The manner of distribution shall be such that coercion is not used to induce students to accept the printed matter or to sign petitions.
  • The solicitation of signatures must not take place in instructional classes or school offices, nor be substantially disruptive to the school program (as determined by the Summit school site Administrator).
  • Pupil editors of official school publications shall be responsible for assigning and editing the news, editorial, and feature content of their publications subject to the limitations of this section. However, it shall be the responsibility of the adviser or advisers of pupil publications to supervise the production of the pupil staff, to maintain professional standards of English and journalism, and to maintain the provisions of this section.
  • There shall be no prior restraint of material prepared for official school publications except insofar as it violates this policy. Summit officials shall have the burden of showing justification without undue delay prior to a limitation of pupil expression under this section.
Buttons, Badges, and Other Insignia

Buttons, Badges, and Other Insignia of Symbolic Expression

Students shall be permitted to wear buttons, badges, armbands, and other insignia as a form of expression, subject to the prohibitions enumerated in this Policy.

Use of Bulletin Boards

Use of Bulletin Boards

Students will be provided with bulletin boards, upon request and subject to availability, for use in posting student materials on campus locations convenient to student use. Where feasible, the location and quantity of such bulletin boards shall be by mutual agreement of student government representatives and Summit administration. Posted material must be in compliance with other sections of this Policy, particularly regarding the distribution of materials and prohibited speech.

Organized Demonstrations

Organized Demonstrations

Students have the right to lawful organized on-campus demonstrations, subject to the provisions of this Policy and applicable law. Demonstrations that incite pupils to create a clear and present danger of the commission of unlawful acts on school premises or the violation of lawful school regulations, or demonstrations that substantially disrupt the orderly operation of the school are prohibited.

No organized demonstrations by school groups may take place during school hours off the school campus unless sanctioned by school authorities and supervised by a designated school authority. No individual student may demonstrate in the name of the school or as an official school group at any time unless authorized by the school to participate in the activity.

Enforcement

Enforcement

  1. The Summit school site Administrator or designee shall review material submitted in a reasonable amount of time and shall allow the approved material to be distributed according to the time and manner established by this Policy.
  2. Any student may appeal the decision of the Summit school site Administrator who shall render a decision within a reasonable period of time after receipt of the appeal. The appeal by the student must be made within five school days from the time the unsatisfactory decision was rendered.
  3. The Summit school site administrator shall work with student government representatives in the development of these procedures. Student responsibilities shall be emphasized.
  4. The Summit school site administrator shall inform Students who the administrator knows or should know are considering actions in the areas covered by this Policy of the possible consequences of their action under each specific circumstance.
  5. This Policy does not prohibit or prevent the Summit Governing Board from adopting otherwise valid rules and regulations relating to oral communications by pupils upon the premises of each Summit school.
  6. No Summit employee shall be dismissed, suspended, disciplined, reassigned, transferred, or otherwise retaliated against solely for acting to protect a pupil engaged in the conduct authorized under this Policy, or refusing to infringe upon conduct that is authorized under this Policy, the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, or Constitution of this state.