Aug 24, 2012    #101
Contact: John Martellaro

Law School Examines Landmark School Speech Cases

Plaintiffs, defendants and attorneys from high profile cases to participate in two-day forum

Participants in some of the most famous and precedent-setting school-based free speech legal cases of the past 40 years will gather in Kansas City in September for a unique symposium sponsored by the School of Law at the University of Missouri-Kansas City and the UMKC Law Review.

The two-day symposium is scheduled for September 20-21 at the UMKC School of Law, 500 E. 52nd St., Kansas City.

Plaintiffs, defendants and attorneys involved in landmark cases such as Tinker v. Des Moines, Bethel School District v. Fraser and Morse v. Frederick will participate in the two-day event, as well as participants from all sides involved in Widmar v. Vincent, the celebrated case involving UMKC that was decided by the U.S. Supreme Court.

David L. Hudson Jr., First Amendment Scholar at the First Amendment Center at Vanderbilt University and author of several books on student rights, will deliver the keynote address.

"This symposium offers a unique opportunity to hear directly from litigants involved in cases that shaped the course of free speech law in this country," said Ellen Suni, dean of the UMKC School of Law.

The symposium offers CLE credits for attorneys and CE credits for educators. Admission is free for students, $50 for educators, $100 for the general public and $30 per credit hour or $245 for 10 credits for attorneys. Registration is available at

Featured cases and participants include:

Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District

When John Tinker and others wore black armbands to school to protest the Vietnam War, school officials suspended them, fearing the protest would create a disturbance. The Court established that students have the right to express controversial opinions in school as long as doing so does not create a disruption or infringe on others' rights.

Speakers: Plantiffs John Tinker, Mary Beth Tinker and Chris Eckhardt, Attorney Dan Johnston

Commentators: Curt Tideman (Lathrop & Gage), Bernard James (Pepperdine School of Law)

Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier

The Court recognized school officials' right to control the content of student speech in a school-sponsored newspaper so long as they have a legitimate pedagogical reason. Cathy Kuhlmeier and fellow journalism students had challenged the school's right to pull articles because the principal found them to be inappropriate.

Speakers: Defendant Gene Reynolds, Plaintiff Cathy Kuhlmeier Frey

Commentators: Allen Rostron (UMKC), Jeff Browne, University of Kansas School of Journalism.

Widmar v. Vincent

When Clark Vincent and fellow members of a Christian group were forbidden to worship during their on-campus meetings at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, they sued. The Court sided with the students and banned viewpoint discrimination against student groups in university settings.

Speakers: Defendant Gary Widmar, Plaintiff Clark Vincent, Attorneys James Smart and Ted Ayres

Commentators: Josie Brown (University of South Carolina School of Law), Daniel Weddle (UMKC)

Bethel School District No. 403 v. Fraser

Matt Fraser sued his school for disciplining him after he delivered a sexually suggestive speech at a school assembly. The Court held that school officials do not violate the First Amendment when they discipline lewd, vulgar or obscene student speech.

Speakers: Plantiff Matt Fraser, Attorney Jeff Haley

Commentators: Kristi Bowman and Maurice Dyson (Thomas Jefferson Law School)

Morse v. Frederick

Joe Frederick and his friends hoped to make it on TV when they unfurled a banner proclaiming "BONG HITS 4 JESUS" as the Olympic torch passed their school in Juneau, Alaska. Principal Deborah Morse suspended Frederick, who challenged it as a violation of his right to free speech. The Court ruled against him, saying educators may prohibit student speech that promotes illegal drug use.

Speakers: Plaintiff Joe Frederick, Attorney Doug Mertz, Attorney Ken Starr

Commentators: Barry McDonald (Pepperdine School of Law), Emily Gold Waldman (Pace Law School)

About the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law

The UMKC School of Law is a top 20 "Best Value" law school that prepares students for practice by integrating high level theory and lawyering skills throughout the curriculum. The School provides a supportive academic and professional community offering high level student interaction with faculty and the legal community. UMKC School of Law is a true community of scholars committed to the foundations of good lawyering: respect for people, for knowledge and ideas, and for justice.

About the University of Missouri-Kansas City

The University of Missouri-Kansas City, one of four University of Missouri campuses, is a public university serving more than 15,000 undergraduate, graduate and professional students. UMKC engages with the community and economy based on a four-part mission: life and health sciences; visual and performing arts; urban issues and education; and a vibrant learning and campus life experience. For more information about UMKC, visit You can also find us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and watch us on YouTube.

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This information is available to people with speech or hearing impairments by calling Relay Missouri at (800) 735-2966 (TT) or (800) 735-2466 (voice).


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