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In the January-February issue of L.A. Youth, we published a quiz about the First Amendment and free speech. Eighty-one teens took the quiz and only three got all the questions right. The correct answers are below. To learn more about your free speech rights, see the Student Press Law Center at

1. Does the U.S. Constitution apply to teenagers?

• None of it applies
• All of it applies
• Only the First Amendment
• Only the Bill of Rights
• The electoral college

The correct answer is All of it applies. There is nothing in the Constitution that says it doesn’t apply to people of a certain age. However, minors’ rights are limited in various ways by state and other laws (For example, you have to be 16 to drive in California).

• 56 percent of the 81 respondents answered this question correctly.

2. Which rights are protected by the First Amendment? (Hint: there are five)

• Assembly
• Bear arms
• Petition
• No unreasonable search or seizure
• Religion
• Privacy
• Press
• Free speech

The correct answers are Assembly, Petition, Religion, Press and Free Speech. The right to bear arms is protected by the Second Amendment. The protection against unreasonable search or seizure is protected by the Fourth Amendment. There is no explicit Constitutional right to privacy.

• 59 percent got all five correct.

3. Is it a crime to burn the American flag as a statement of political protest?

The correct answer is no. The Supreme Court ruled in Texas v. Johnson (1989) and in United States v. Eichman (1990) that burning the flag is protected free speech.

• Only 43 percent answered correctly.

4. Can a school stop a school newspaper from publishing an article that criticizes the dress code?

The correct answer is no. Public school officials in California cannot punish or interfere with students who write articles that would ordinarily be protected by the First Amendment (meaning not obscene or libelous), as long as the publication of these articles wouldn’t seriously disrupt school. For example, an article criticizing the dress code cannot be censored, but officials could stop an article encouraging students to ditch as a protest.

• 74 percent answered correctly.

5. Does the government have the right to restrict indecent material on the Internet?

The correct answer is no. While “obscenity” is a defined category of speech that is not protected by the First Amendment, “indecent material” is legally permitted, because what is indecent to one person might not be to someone else.

• 62 percent answered correctly.

6. Does the First Amendment protect a person’s legal right to shout “Fire” in a crowded theater as a joke?

The correct answer is no. The First Amendment right to free speech has some exceptions. It does not protect a person’s right to say something that could cause immediate harm to others, as in this example.

• 80 percent answered correctly.

7. If a reporter refuses to reveal a news source, can he or she be sent to jail by the federal courts?

The correct answer is yes. The First Amendment provides some protection for reporters working with confidential sources, however it does not guarantee that reporters won’t be ordered by a judge to reveal their sources. If a reporter chooses to defy a judge’s order, then she or he could be sent to jail.

• Only 47 percent answered correctly.

8. Are student religious groups at public schools permitted to meet on campus after school?

The correct answer is yes. The First Amendment says that the government or teachers cannot endorse a particular religion. A religious club can meet in a classroom after school so long as the school also allows all other extracurricular clubs (for example, a gay-straight alliance club, ski club or chess club) to meet in the school’s classrooms.

• 75 percent answered correctly.

9. Is it constitutional for students to hold a protest before school in the courtyard?

The correct answer is yes. The First Amendment protects the right to assemble and protesting before school does not disrupt learning in the classroom, so a principal would not have legal grounds to break up the protest.

• 68 percent answered correctly.

10. Do public school students have to salute the flag during the Pledge of Allegiance?

The correct answer is no. The Supreme Court ruled in West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette (1943) that students can refuse to say the pledge or salute the flag.

• 82 percent answered correctly.

11. Which branch of government ultimately determines what rights are

protected by the First Amendment?

• Supreme Court
• Congress
• Executive (President)

The correct answer is the Supreme Court. The constitution gives Congress the authority to write and pass laws, the Executive Branch the power to enforce them and the Supreme Court the authority to decide how the laws apply.

• 56 percent answered correctly.

12. Does a school have the right to stop students from publishing an underground newspaper?

The correct answer is no. Publishing an underground newspaper is protected as free speech according to the First Amendment as well as the California Education Code. However, schools do have limited authority to restrict when and where students distribute the newspaper. Distribution cannot cause a substantial disruption of school activities.

• 68 percent answered correctly.

13. Can a public school coach lead players in prayer before a football game?

The correct answer is no. Public school officials may not lead players in prayer under any circumstances, because that could be interpreted as school officials supporting one religion more than another. Students have a right to pray, but school officials must not promote or encourage students’ personal religious observances.

• Only 48 percent answered correctly.

14. Can a school require that a student remove a T-shirt that has the words “Smoke Pot” on it?

The correct answer is yes. Wearing a T-shirt at school with a message that urges someone to do something illegal is probably not protected as free speech if it would substantially disrupt school activities.

• 74 percent answered correctly.

15. Does the media need to get permission from the U.S. government before it publishes critical articles?

The correct answer is no. The Supreme Court has ruled that the government cannot require that news outlets seek permission to publish or broadcast stories which criticize the government because that would violate free speech.

• 74 percent answered correctly.