This article discusses an emerging legal trend that may expand schools’ abilities to protect their students. It focuses on Morse v. Frederick, a 2007 decision popularly known as the “Bong Hits 4 Jesus” case in which the court held that a school principal may restrict student speech that can be reasonably viewed as promoting illegal drug use. Negron argues that when read together, the majority opinion and Justice Alito and Justice Kennedy’s concurring opinion, permit schools to regulate student expression that may threaten student welfare. Justices Alito and Kennedy sought to limit the majority’s holding to speech involving illegal drug use, but in doing accepted the premise that schools may limit speech that encourages dangerous conduct, Negron points out. Ironically, some lower courts have interpreted this opinion to carve out an exception to students’ First Amendment rights, thereby expanding Morse rather than containing it. The article concludes, “Morse appears to have unwittingly created a new standard-not yet fully expressed as such, but found amongst its fractured opinions- that is premised on the underlying notion that schools may generally regulate student speech where student welfare is at stake.”
Negron, Francisco M. Jr. “Foot in the Door - The Unwitting Move towards a New Student Welfare Standard in Student Speech after Morse v. Frederick.” American University Law Review 58, no. 5 (June 2009): 1221-1241.