When the Founding Fathers drafted the constitution in 1787, they envisioned a country where individual liberties and fundamental freedoms were deemed an inalienable right by virtue of citizenship to all Americans.
These rights included freedom of religion, freedom of the press, freedom of speech and to peacefully express and redress of grievances against the government. Indeed, this document which protects our most essential rights laid the foundation for the kind of country our fathers hoped to exist well into the future.
As such, this philosophy is what shapes us today and makes America the “land of the free,” to which we welcome others from abroad to share in our culture and strongly held beliefs. However, despite these freedoms we are not a perfect nation, but an ever evolving one which must seek to continue the traditions of the founders to protect these fundamental rights for each of us as well as future generations.
In recent years, the issue of First Amendment rights has solicited heated debates throughout the country that have caused to us question what the founding fathers really intended to convey. In 1969, Tinker vs. Des Moines illustrates this social quandry. In their controversial ruling, the Supreme Court ruled that students “do not shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate.” As such, student suspensions for wearing black arm bands to school in protest of the war in Vietnam were considered unconstitutional and violated first amendment rights.
Moreover, in 1986, in Bethel School District No. 408 vs. Fraser, students were suspended for giving a lewd speech as part of a student government campaign in which references to sexual activities were made. The ruling in this case allowed schools to limit speech that is considered lewd and inappropriate in academic settings.
It is important that schools and students know their First Amendment rights and how they are perceived legally. Therefore, we should be reminded that the Iowa Legislature passed House File 744 requiring colleges to provide training on First Amendment rights training on campus.
This ruling should be a call to action to us all as we navigate our daily forms of expression while keeping the traditions of our Founders.
With this in mind, students are encouraged to take the college’s recent addition of the First Amendment Training on TALON. In doing so, students will become more informed of their basic rights and fundamental freedoms.