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Is a teacher’s classroom a public forum?

According to many courts, a teacher’s classroom is not a public forum.

Recently, for example, a high school English teacher in Pennsylvania asserted that school classrooms were designated public forums and that she had a constitutional right to post Learn ball literature, symbols, and paraphernalia in her classroom.

A federal district court, however, rejected her claim in the case of Murray v. Pittsburgh Board of Public Education.1 The court noted that the teacher failed "to direct the court to a single case in which a public high school classroom was determined to be a designated open public forum," and added:

This is not surprising as it is simply not the law. A public high school classroom is a nonpublic forum. As such, a school may restrict the use of its classrooms to serve the school's intended educational purposes as long as the restrictions are reasonable and are not an effort to suppress a teacher's expression merely because the school opposes his particular views.2

In another case, a federal court in Virginia implied that school officials could create a designated public forum on teachers’ classroom doors by allowing speech about certain topics. However, the court in that case also ruled that the school principal could prohibit a teacher from posting a pamphlet advertising banned books on his classroom door. "It would be ludicrous to insist that teachers could post anything they want on their doorways," the judge wrote.3


1 Murray v. Pittsburgh Bd. of Public Education, 919 F. Supp. 838 (W.D. Penn. 1996), aff’d, 107 F.3d 862 (1997).

2 Id. at 844.

3 Newton v. Slye, 116 F. Supp.2d 677 (W.D. Virg. 2000).

Last updated: Wednesday, May 23, 2018 | 11:22:51