Bathroom signs incite First Amendment debate

As issues arise, students wonder just how much of their speech is protected by the First Amendment.


Megan Edenfield

Students are involved in a debate over the validity of school rules. The debates were sparked by signs posted in the girls’ bathrooms

Ethan Zakrewski, News Editor

Freedom of speech.

Freedom of the press.

Freedom of religion.

Freedom to peacefully assemble.

Freedom to petition the government.

These are all rights assured to Americans that are guaranteed by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. However, the interpretation of these rights are ambiguous.

Students are often confused as to whether or not Henry County Schools has the right to prohibit certain things against the First Amendment.

Protected: The right of a high school to have a dress code.

Due to the Supreme Court ruling in the case of U.S. V. O’Brien, schools are permitted to have a dress code provided the dress code advances an important government interest (such as education), is authorized under state law (which Ola’s dress code is), and provided that the dress code only incidentally restricts student expression (which Ola’s also does), so the dress code is fully legally protected. Ola High School’s dress code is legally considered “okay.” In short, a school dress code doesn’t infringe upon students’ First Amendment rights under freedom of speech.

Not Protected: The right of students to post things without permission on school property.

Students’ right to post things on school property is, well, not a right. The ability to post on school property is merely a privilege that may be revoked at any time if it is even given. Schools are legally permitted to restrict forms of speech that may be deemed disruptive to the learning environment. This means that teachers and faculty have the fully protected ability to remove any sign that is posted on school grounds, such as signs posted in protest of the school’s dress code.

Recently, an anonymous student has posted signs in the girls’ bathrooms. Some signs were posted and removed, and new ones took their places. Hallway and commons area conversations between students indicate that the general opinion of the removal of these signs is that of a violation of their rights, these absurd calls for “equality” in the school’s dress code are causing a disruption to the learning environment. As a student at Ola High School, I personally do NOT want to be considered a piece of some “rape culture” because I, along with the state and national government, expect all people, not just females, to dress in a manner that is appropriate at school, a manner that is appropriate to learn in and around. It’s time for us all to step up and be the constantly maturing and evolving people that we have always been meant to be. Let’s focus on school as not a fashion show but an esteemed institution for us to come to and grow in, a place for us all.