Bethel School District No. 403 v. Fraser Page 16

Bethel School District No. 403 v. Fraser general information

Media for Bethel School District No. 403 v. Fraser

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - March 03, 1986 in Bethel School District No. 403 v. Fraser

Jeffrey T. Haley:

My understanding from working on this case from the beginning is that he went to the teachers for two reasons: One, to see whether they thought that he would get in trouble for presenting the speech or whether this was something that they wanted to stop; and two, because he had a relationship with these teachers of student and teacher and he wanted to show them what he was doing, he wanted to show them how clever he was and how artfully he had created a speech which would be very entertaining to his classmates.

Harry A. Blackmun:

You regard this as a clever speech?

Jeffrey T. Haley:

I believe the record contains the analysis, the comments of some of the people in the school, teachers or students, who did view the speech as clever.

I think within the context of the adolescent mind and the kinds of things that they're interested in, they did find it very clever.

My time is up.

Warren E. Burger:

Mr. Coats.

William A. Coats:

Thank you, Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court:

By way of response, Mr. Haley did read from the record, but he didn't go on.

And I did ask, when the teacher said, I told him I thought it could cause problems, I said: Well, could you explain what you thought you implied?

And the teacher said: Well, I think by saying that it could cause problems and raise eyebrows, I also realized that the speech was indeed ambiguous and could be interpreted a number of ways.

So rather than debate with Matt the morality and profanity in it, I thought it might be best to just point out or at last try to reason that it could indeed cause problems as far as his remaining few weeks at the school.

I didn't know what the consequences could be.

And indeed, the teacher does not administer the discipline.

But when you read, a fair reading of the record, when you realize this is ten minutes before the speech, when these teachers had other students present, I think that they went... their comments could not be construed as giving this student license to say anything he wants to say at that assembly.

I want to respond first to Justice Powell's question, is this political speech?

And Justice Powell, I'd refer you to this Court's decision in Conick versus Meyers, and in that case the Court considered speech between an assistant district attorney, or actually a petition an assistant district attorney circulated in the office, and she was fired as a result of that petition.

And this Court in considering that case said that there was only one question in that petition that had any public significance and the rest of it was just an internal communication within the office, and that this Court should not involve itself.

We would suggest to you that that case applies here, that there is no big political issue being discussed.

It was a crude joke.

Secondly, I want to follow up on Mr. Justice Renquist's question about, does it make any difference is this is a classroom or an assembly?

And I would suggest to you that it's not up to Mr. Fraser to determine the school district's curriculum.

And indeed, what the statute says is that a school district shall have an associated student body, and it's under the control and direction of the board of directors.

Now, if the board of directors concludes that the best educational environment is a school assembly, that that's the proper place to inculcate values, that that's the proper place to in fact allow the students to learn public discourse, that that does not change any of the factors which give school districts the authority to regulate the content of speech in a school setting.

There is still the relationship of student to teacher.

There are still other students around.

Now, he tried to distinguish away the captive audience.

But I would suggest to you that what he's suggesting is that in order to participate in your school activities such as this, in your own school government, you should have to put up with this type of behavior.

That's clearly not the law.

Now going to the issue of notice and this Court's concern about a disruptive conduct rule, I think, first of all, it's important you understand how these rules are adopted, and I think the record is clear, first of all, that we do distribute student codes.

This is the total student code for Bethel.