The First Amendment Protects Your Right to Swear in School?

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Think you can curse in class and get away with it? You may be right... if you live in Arizona.

A court in that state threw out criminal abuse charges against a teen who shouted obscenities at his teacher. He was suspended from school for 10 days, and a juvenile court found him guilty of "abusing teachers or other school employees."
The student sued the school for violating his right to freedom of speech under the First Amendment -- and eventually won thanks to the Fighting Words Doctrine, which doesn't protect words meant to provoke a fight. The Arizona Supreme Court ruled that a teacher is not in an average position, and therefore should be more likely to remain calm during altercations with students.

"We do not believe that the natural reaction of the average teacher to a student's profane and insulting outburst, unaccompanied by any threats, would be to beat the student," the Court said.

Even though The Arizona Supreme Court failed to find the student's words in violation of the Fighting Words Doctrine, he wasn't completely off the hook. The Court agreed with the school's decision to suspend the student, and a more reasonable charge would have been "disruptive conduct in schools."


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