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Bethel School District #43 v Fraser

Court Case Project

Viet D

on 26 November 2012

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Transcript of Bethel School District #43 v Fraser

Patrick Royce and Viet Dau
Period 4 Bethel School District #403
v Fraser 1986 The Amendments Discussed: Chief Justice Burger and Court Opinion Chief Justice Burger The Court Opinion/Majority Opinion The purpose of the American public school system was described by two historians who said, "Public education must prepare pupils for citizenship in the Republic. . . . It must inculcate the habits and manners of civility as values in themselves conducive to happiness and as indispensable to the practice of self-government in the community and the nation." What this means is that the freedom to speak your views in a school has to be balanced with society's responsibility of teaching student's appropriate behavior. Issues Under Debate
Amendments Under Discussion A brief summary of our case: Argued March 3, 1986
Decided July 7, 1986
Petitioner: Bethel School District No. 403
Respondent: Matthew N. Fraser
On April 26, 1983, Matthew Fraser gave a speech at Bethel High School in Pierce County, Washington, nominating a fellow student for a student office
about 600 students were in attendance at the assembly, a majority of whom were 14 years old
Fraser referred to his friend in an elaborate, explicitly sexual manner
Beforehand, he had discussed the speech with many teachers, two of whom had believed the speech was inappropriate and advised him not to deliver it
next morning, principal called Fraser to her office saying he had violated conduct rule; Fraser admits to intentionally using sexual innuendo
punishment: he was told that he would be suspended for 3 days and taken off the list of candidates to be a speaker at graduation ceremony
the school district’s grievance procedures was satisfied with the discipline but allowed Fraser to return after two days Bethel School District No. 403 v Fraser Case (Case continued) Fraser’s father filed a suit to the Federal District Court claiming the school violated his son’s right to freedom of speech through their sanctions for his son, also that removing his son’s name from the graduation speakers list violated the Due Process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment
The District Court agreed, ruling in favor of Fraser, awarding him $278 in damages, $12,750 in litigation costs and attorney’s fees, and allowed Fraser to speak at graduation
School District appealed to the US Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, however they ruled with the District Court’s ruling, so the school asked the Supreme Court to take the case Freedom of Speech Due Process of Law The Issues Debated: Fraser believed the school was violating his freedom of speech by disciplining him for the speech he gave for the nomination of his friend for vice president. The District Court had ruled that the school violated the Fourteenth Amendment's Due Process of Law clause because their disciplinary rules did not mention that being removed from the list of graduation speakers could be a punishment.
How could they give this punishment if it wasn't even listed as a punishment? The 1st Amendment The first amendment was the main amendment that was debated over in the trial. Did Fraser have the right to deliver his inappropriate speech to the students about his friend? Did the district have the right to penalize him by suspending him for three days for what he said, even if it was considered by the school lewd and indecent? "Congress shall make no law... abridging the freedom of speech..." - The 1st Amendment The 14th Amendment and the "No State shall deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law..." - The 14th Amendment The fourteenth amendment was also an amendment debated. Fraiser felt that if the school was going to take away his chance to talk at graduation, he felt he should be proven guilty in a court before being punished. If the school was violating his freedom of speech, then they should not even be punishing him from something he might be innocent of. Warren E Burger was Chief Justice of Bethel v Fraser. Chief Justice Burger was in the courts from 1969 to 1986, the fifth longest Chief Justice term in U.S. history. Burger earned his law degree from the St. Paul College of Law, then joined a Minneapolis law firm 1931. He dealt with cases like Watergate and Miliken v. Bradley. He was known as a man with an eye for detail in the court. He was known for being a key player in ending segregation by busing, which is transportation of students to school without segregation. (Court Opinion continued) For this reason, Burger's opinion was that the First Amendment did not obstruct the school from prohibiting vulgar language since it conflicted with these public school values. Therefore, the school also did not violate the Due Process clause of the fourteenth amendment. Concurring Opinion Justice Brennan concurred the judgement. The Court had felt that Fraser's speech was "obscene" and "offensively lewd" for a school environment. So, Brennan had not seen it as unconstitutional for the school to conclude that his remarks surpassed acceptable limits. Dissenting Opinions Justice Marshall agreed with the principles set out by Justice Brennan. However, Justice Marshall had felt that the school did not show sufficient evidence that Fraser's speech had disrupted any educational process.
Justice Stevens also dissented. Fraser had an outstanding academic record and because he was chosen to speak at this assembly shows that he was respected by his peers. As Justice Stevens put it, Fraser was probably in a "better position to determine whether an audience composed of 600 of his contemporaries would be offended by the use of a sexual metaphor, than a group of judges who are at least two generations and 3,000 miles away from the scene of the crime." In all the courts leading up to the the Supreme Court, Fraser had won every time. However, in this Supreme Court case, the justices ruled in favor of Bethel High School, 7-2. As said earlier, the majority felt that the school had a right to punish students who used vulgar and lewd speech. Who won
and the
Impact of this Case Who won this case: The impact this case has on Constitutional Law: This case emphasized that the Constitution did not urge that teachers and school officials "surrender control of the American public school system to public school students." It is up to school to protect the educational process of students. Also the case, highlighted that the Constitution does not allow students full freedom of speech if it includes lewd and indecent language that goes against public school values. Works Cited
BETHEL SCHOOL DISTRICT NO. 403 v. FRASER. The Oyez Project at IITChicago-Kent
College of Law. 18 Nov. 2012.
Bethel School District No. 403 v Fraser. Supreme Court. 7 July 1986. Legal Information
Institute. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Nov. 2012. Picture Citation

Title Picture (book)



Warren E Burger
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