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
Murray v. Pittsburgh Bd. of Public Education, 919 F. Supp. 838 (W.D. Penn. 1996), aff’d, 107 F.3d 862 (1997).
Id. at 844.
Newton v. Slye, 116 F. Supp.2d 677 (W.D. Virg. 2000).
Sunday, August 2, 2015 | 20:44:15