The right to read by Caroline Kanavatsas, staff reporter

The first amendment of the Constitution promises freedom of speech, but not all speech is protected. There are some exceptions; The Supreme Court states that, “There are four categories of non protected speech – libel, obscenity, fighting words, and misleading commercial speech. All other speech is protected under the First Amendment.” Reading books is protected under this amendment, and is not under one of these four categories.
“The first amendment has almost no rights, we barely have the right of speech,”says Michael Laut, junior.

Counts v Cedar School District (2003)

However in Counts v Cedar School District, a school banned The Harry Potter books because “it promoted disobedience and disrespect for authority and dealt with witchcraft and the occult.” The supreme court thought that the reason was unconstitutional, and students are protected under the first amendment that allows them to have the right to “read and receive information.”

The students were protected under the Constitution and the school wasn’t allowed to prevent them to read a book on the basis of “an undifferentiated fear of disturbance or because the Board disagreed with the ideas contained in the book,” according to this case.

Students should read whatever they want to, and just because someone else disagrees with the book does not mean everyone has to. Just reading a book for fun does not break any of the four categories of unprotected speech.

“Words used in such circumstances and are of such a nature as to create a clear and present danger that they will bring about the substantive evils that Congress has a right to prevent,” states the Constitution. Unless the book creates a danger some how, then the school has the right to remove it, but it does not.

Abington School District v. Schempp(1963)

In this court case, a public school required students to read the bible in the begining of school every day as part of their education. But it was declared unconstitutional by the court.

Schempp, who started the case, stated that reading the bible was against the “religious beliefs which they held and to their familial teaching.”

Reading the bible may be permitted in a private school, but in public schools, where religions and cultures are more diverse, its impossible for everyone to follow the same religion.

If the school wanted everyone to read the bible, they should have made it a private school. Their common sense was lacking when they made the school a public school, where everyone practices different religions.


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