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This principle has been repeated by this Court on numerous occasions during the intervening years. Among those activities is personal intercommunication among the students. In the circumstances of the present case, the prohibition of the silent, passive "witness of the armbands," as one of the children called it, is no less offensive to the Constitution's guarantees.This is not only an inevitable part of the process of attending school; it is also an important part of the educational process. Under our Constitution, free speech is not a right that is given only to be so circumscribed that it exists in principle, but not in fact. As we have discussed, the record does not demonstrate any facts which might reasonably have led school authorities to forecast substantial disruption of or material interference with school activities, and no disturbances or disorders on the school premises in fact occurred.In our system, students may not be regarded as closed-circuit recipients of only that which the State chooses to communicate.They may not be confined to the expression of those sentiments that are officially approved.Justice Mc Reynolds expressed this Nation's repudiation of the principle that a State might so conduct its schools as to "foster a homogeneous people." He said: In order to submerge the individual and develop ideal citizens, Sparta assembled the males at seven into barracks and intrusted their subsequent education and training to official guardians. The classroom is peculiarly the "marketplace of ideas." The Nation's future depends upon leaders trained through wide exposure to that robust exchange of ideas which discovers truth "out of a multitude of tongues, [rather] than through any kind of authoritative selection." The principle of these cases is not confined to the supervised and ordained discussion which takes place in the classroom.Although such measures have been deliberately approved by men of great genius, their ideas touching the relation between individual and State were wholly different from those upon which our institutions rest; and it hardly will be affirmed that any legislature could impose such restrictions upon the people of a [p512] State without doing violence to both letter and spirit of the Constitution. The principal use to which the schools are dedicated is to accommodate students during prescribed hours for the purpose of certain types of activities. 967) (expulsion of student editor of college newspaper).[p510] On the contrary, the action of the school authorities appears to have been based upon an urgent wish to avoid the controversy which might result from the expression, even by the silent symbol of armbands, of opposition to this Nation's part in the conflagration in Vietnam.It is revealing, in this respect, that the meeting at which the school principals decided to issue the contested regulation was called in response to a student's statement to the journalism teacher in one of the schools that he wanted to write an article on Vietnam and have it published in the school paper. ) It is also relevant that the school authorities did not purport to prohibit the wearing of all symbols of political or controversial significance.
As Judge Gewin, speaking for the Fifth Circuit, said, school officials cannot suppress "expressions of feelings with which they do not wish to contend." at 402, Mr.The District Court dismissed the complaint on the ground that the regulation was within the Board's power, despite the absence of any finding of substantial interference with the conduct of school activities. The group determined to publicize their objections to the hostilities in Vietnam and their support for a truce by wearing black armbands during the holiday season and by fasting on December 16 and New Year's Eve.The Court of Appeals, sitting en banc, affirmed by an equally divided court. In wearing armbands, the petitioners were quiet and passive. First Amendment rights are available to teachers and students, subject to application in light of the special characteristics of the school environment. Petitioners and their parents had previously engaged in similar activities, and they decided to participate in the program.After an evidentiary hearing, the District Court dismissed the complaint. The court was equally divided, and the District Court's decision was accordingly affirmed without opinion. Outside the classrooms, a few students made hostile remarks to the children wearing armbands, but there were no threats or acts of violence on school premises.It upheld [p505] the constitutionality of the school authorities' action on the ground that it was reasonable in order to prevent disturbance of school discipline. The District Court concluded that the action of the school authorities was reasonable because it was based upon their fear of a disturbance from the wearing of the armbands.
Any variation from the majority's opinion may inspire fear.