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Massachusetts law about student dress codes and freedom of expression

A compilation of laws, regulations, cases, and web sources on student dress codes and freedom of expression law.

Table of Contents

Massachusetts laws

MGL c. 71, s. 82 Right of Students to Freedom of Expression

MGL c.72, s.83 Dress and Appearance of Students Protected

Federal laws

US Constitution, 1st Amendment Free Speech, Press, Religion

Selected case law

Pyle v. South Hadley School Committee, 423 Mass. 283 (1996)
Court held that high school students in public schools have the freedom under MGL c. 71, s. 82 to engage in non-school sponsored expression (wearing a t-shirt) reasonably considered vulgar, but which causes no disruption or disorder.

Tinker v. Des Moines Community School District, 393 US 503 (1969)
Supreme Court held that students who wore armbands which carried a political message had a constitutionally-protected right, under the First Amendment, to do so.

Web sources

  • Freedom of Expression, National Paralegal College
    Uses simple case studies to outline what is and is not protected speech or symbolic speech
  • Student Speech, ACLU
    Includes symbolic speech, such as dress, as well as more traditional issues, like school papers and theater productions
  • Students: Know Your Rights, ACLU of Massachusetts, 2011
    Basic information on student rights issues in a question and answer format.
  • Students' Rights in Massachusetts, GLAD, 2014
    "Massachusetts law forbids discrimination in public schools on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity or expression (effective July 1, 2012). Questions & Answers (Accurate as of February 11, 2014)."

Print sources

Contact

Phone

Within Massachusetts only

Within Massachusetts only

Online

Reference librarians online Chat with a law librarian 
Reference librarians via email masslawlib@gmail.com

Address

Administrative office (no law library at this location)
2 Center Plaza
9th Floor
Boston, MA 02108
Last updated: April 18, 2018

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