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The National Education already own network presents a law in the news with Professor Joseph R. Julan associate dean of the University of Michigan Law School has reported on this program some two weeks ago. The United States Supreme Court has held that wearing a black armbands by public school students protected by the Constitution in the same manner as the Constitution protects free speech. The purpose of the armbands was one of protesting the Vietnam War. All those school officials in prohibiting this form of silent speech acted to prevent disruption. The record before the court was bare of any substantial evidence to support the official's concern. Not surprisingly the court concluded that neither a faculty member nor student leaves his constitutional right to freedom of speech silence speech or communication in the armband case at the schoolhouse door. The court is speaking through the panel. Justices Abe Fortas made clear that the case did not involve questions which might be raised if a student was to claim a like constitutional right to wear a mini skirt a
beard or unusually long hair. Some took this judicial statement to mean the court was not about to get hung up on long hair and short skirts. What was so many pressing issues demanding the nine justices time and wisdom. That conclusion may prove to be sound. But if so it is somewhat at variance with the just announced decision of a United States district judge for the western district of Wisconsin. Wisconsin federal judge Dawn has held that students in public secondary schools have the same freedom he believes adult males and females have a freedom to present themselves physically to the world in the manner of his or her choice. To suggest that the school should be immune from constitutional scrutiny with respect to the regulation of the length of student's hair the judge says is to suggest a parallel between the public schools on the one hand and the armed forces or a penal institution on the other. Perhaps the judge is implying what I suppose is obvious
that each of us communicates to the world at large in many ways most of which are non-verbal and therefore not really speech. This seems to lead to the proposition that free speech should be read today to mean freedom of expression or even freedom of communication. Thus constitutionally protected under the First Amendment. At least that's the judge's reasoning. Who can deny one's manner of dress manners of ruling one's manner of movement is a means of expression and in turn communication and does not the Supreme Court equating of an armband to speech support this line of reasoning which leads to the proposition that communication is protected by the First Amendment. Perhaps the framers of the constitutional bill of rights meant speech and no more not expression whatever that term includes. Then where is the court left in its quest to find mini skirt micro skirt or less constitutionally preserved Judge Boyle concedes some uncertainty as to whether this mode of communication falls within that category of expression protected by the First Amendment.
At this point in his line of thought he refers to the birth control case decided by the United State's high court some four years ago. Now that case you remember involved a Connecticut statute which declared it to be a crime to use any drug or article to prevent conception. Various officials of the Planned Parenthood league of Connecticut were convicted as accessories for giving married persons information and medical advice and how to prevent conception. The Supreme Court held the Connecticut statute violated the right of marital privacy which while not mentioned in the Bill of Rights falls within the penumbra of specific guarantees. Justice Black writing in dissent is he now so often does. Couldn't find the right the majority had said was somewhere in the Constitution. The majority had decided this right of privacy however was so important that it simply had to be there somewhere. But Justice Black says the court talks about a constitutional right of privacy is as though there is some constitutional provision or provisions forbidding any law ever to be passed which might abridge the privacy of individuals. But black stated there is not. Now Wisconsin federal judge
doing a reasoned as did the Supreme Court the freedom to appear as one desires if to express only individual taste is a significant right and must somewhere find constitutional protection even if one is not certain just what language of the Constitution protects freedom of expression. I hasten to note that the Board of Education in question had not made much of a case on the merits. There was no direct testimony that any distraction had resulted from the dress and grooming in question. There was no evidence demonstrating academic performance of the short skirted long haired students that suffered. One might therefore have concluded the regulations were not reasonably related to education and for that reason arbitrary and unreasonable. No one wants a governmental body to act that way. But a constitutional right to wear a mini skirt or a beard. Oh I doubt the United States Supreme Court will ever issue such a decree. PROFESSOR JOSEPH R. Julan associate dean of the University of Michigan Law School as presented law in the news recorded by the University of Michigan Broadcasting Service. This is the national educational radio
Law in the news
Defining freedom of expression
Producing Organization
University of Michigan
National Association of Educational Broadcasters
Contributing Organization
University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Episode Description
This program discusses the nebulous nature of defining freedom of expression.
Series Description
This series focuses on current news stories that relate to the law.
Broadcast Date
Public Affairs
Politics and Government
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Producing Organization: University of Michigan
Producing Organization: National Association of Educational Broadcasters
Speaker: Julin, Joseph R.
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 61-35a-406 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:05:21
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Chicago: “Law in the news; Defining freedom of expression,” 1969-03-25, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed July 13, 2024,
MLA: “Law in the news; Defining freedom of expression.” 1969-03-25. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. July 13, 2024. <>.
APA: Law in the news; Defining freedom of expression. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from