May Our Voices Be Heard

Our constitutional right to speak our minds is what drives democracy in the United States

Amariah Nielsen, Reporter

At school, you, the student, use your First Amendment right to freedom of speech every day, and in ways you might not be aware of. You can speak, form clubs and petition for change within your school district. Even reading this magazine is an example of that undeniable right.

School publications, like The Print, allow students to share their voices and raise awareness to the community around them. Although journalism is one of the most used forms of free speech, it’s important to remember you don’t have to work for the school magazine to make use of the First Amendment. 

Over the course of this year, students have exercised that right to freedom of speech and assembly in different ways. Kate Shaw and Srinath Nandigam, both seniors, worked in association with Students for Equity through Education or S.E.E. to petition for Frisco ISD to add masks to school dress code and educate students on respiratory etiquette like covering coughs. 

Every student who signed the petition used that same right to express their opinion on an issue important to them. 

Petitions are clear examples of freedom of speech in action, but more subtle examples exist as well. 

I reflected on the different ways I use my right to  freedom of speech in an average school day. On Tuesday, February 22, I decided to wear a T-shirt promoting the school magazine. As long as my clothing doesn’t violate the school dress code, I know that my T-shirt is protected by the First Amendment right to free speech. 

Small actions like clicking a button to show support or advertising through clothing can lead to even greater outcomes. 

In 1969, students attending Des Moines, Iowa high schools were suspended for wearing black armbands as a symbolic protest of the conflict in Vietnam. When the case was brought before the Supreme Court as Tinker vs Des Moines, Justice Abe Fortas said, “It can hardly be argued that either students or teachers shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate.” 

Amidst uncertainty, those students were willing to stand for what they believed in, even if it didn’t seem like much. Could they have imagined how wearing armbands would have such a powerful impact on the students of today? 

Students of today use free speech regularly because social media connects them to current issues. In current news, politics, COVID and the environment motivate students to push for action within their communities. 

The first article I wrote for The Print was on climate change and its role in the natural cycle. Though my opinion varied from some of my peers, the ability to speak freely gave me the confidence to write, knowing my views would be respected. And I am fortunate to live in a country where I know these rights are protected. 

The Constitution was framed to protect these precious rights, and continues to enhance freedoms even after two hundred years, that anyone regardless of background may exercise these liberties. In big and little ways, growing up in America allows you to be a voice for change no matter who you are.