Bethel School District No. 403 v. Fraser Page 2

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

William A. Coats:

Approximately 600, Justice Marshall, in this school setting.

William H. Rehnquist:

What was the grade or age range of the students?

William A. Coats:

It's a school that has sophomores through seniors, so the youngest would be 14, the oldest would be 18, and they would range in there according to their grades.

Mr. Fraser... you will note that the district did not take cavalierly his claims that he was being discriminated against or that somehow his viewpoint was being suppressed.

If you review the record in this case, you'll find that Mr. Fraser appealed to the district's hearing officer from the decision of his building principal, and I think if you read that decision, which is part of the joint appendix, that one of the conclusions that was not overturned by the district court was that there was no viewpoint discrimination here, that the district's sole concern was to limit vulgarity and indecent language in the school setting.

This Court has been very clear and has often repeated that it does not want to get involved in the daily operations of the school system, that it only wants to get involved when core constitutional values are involved and sharply implicated.

This Court has also indicated that the regulation of vulgarity and indecent speech is on the periphery of the First Amendment.

We submit to this Court that when you review this case one of the issues is where does the federal court system relate itself to the public schools.

And we would suggest to you, with the rights herein involved and the speech here involved, absent viewpoint suppression, that there should be minimal court review and that all a school district should be required to do is to justify its actions with a reasonable educational purpose.

John Paul Stevens:

Mr. Coats, may I ask you a question?

This is an extracurricular assembly?

It's not part of the regular... the students were not required to attend, is that right?

William A. Coats:

Well, I want to be very clear on what the context is, because I think that's important.

It was, students had the option of either going to the assembly or going to a study hall.

Now, the ASB, however, in the State of Washington is an activity that is statutorily recognized and required.

And those statutes, which are RCW-28A.58.115 through 120, I think you'll find that they're somewhat uniquely specific in this area compared to the other states that I have seen.

And they make very clear that this activity is under the direction and control of the public school setting.

So this is no more an elective activity that, for example, when a student elects to take drama rather than going to a study hall.

This is a part of the educational program of this particular school district, as it is in other school districts in of Washington.

John Paul Stevens:

In your view, would it be permissible, given that setting, for the school board to prohibit the discussion of any religious topics during any campaign speech or any prayer activities?

Let's all say a prayer for candidate X?

William A. Coats:

Clearly this is not the case of Bender versus Williamsport.

John Paul Stevens:

Well, that's really my question.

William A. Coats:

And I think it's important to note that.

Bender involved independent student activities.

This activity is supported by public funds.

It's under the direction and control and supervision of the school authorities.

The school officials lead the activity.

We assign advisors to it.

We subsidize it with public funds.