High School Yearbook Starts Big Debate on Freedom of Speech, President Trump

May 12th 2017

Danielle DeCourcey

A high school in North Carolina recalled their yearbooks, and it's causing a debate about free speech. Administrators recalled the yearbooks from Richmond Early College High School after students reportedly wrote comments Richmond County Schools officials deemed "inappropriate."

The district spokeswoman Ashley-Michelle Thublin told the Charlotte Observer that one of the quotes was "Build that Wall," a campaign slogan of President Donald Trump promoting his border wall between the United States and Mexico.

Only 22 yearbooks were distributed before Principal Tonya Waddell saw the comments and had them recalled. But because it's late in the school year the books cannot be corrected in time, and students won't get a yearbook this year.

The school district made a Facebook post on Tuesday explaining the decision to recall the yearbooks. It did not provide specific examples about the other comments the district deemed inappropriate.


The post started a debate about free speech.

The vast majority of Facebook users commented that the school shouldn't censor students' political views.







Whether they should or not, as one Facebook user named Tiffany Lee Keene pointed out, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that schools can legally censor students' free speech in certain cases.



In 1965 two students wore black armbands to protest the Vietnam War and the school suspended them after they refused to remove the armbands. In 1969, the case, Tinker v. Des Moines Independent School District, went before the U.S Supreme Court, and the justices sided with the students. They also said that students don't have unlimited free speech if the speech interferes with school work.

The Supreme Court justices then ruled in 1988, a school principal had the right to censor student journalists in Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier. The principal felt that two articles addressing divorce and teenage pregnancy were not appropriate for young adults and that the pregnancy story didn't do enough to protect the teenagers' identities. However, in 2008, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that schools could restrict speech that advocates for illegal drug use in a case regarding a student who got in trouble for a "Bong hits for Jesus" T-shirt.

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