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APSU dean and BGSU professor release new book on First-Amendment rights in schools

Dr. Prentice Chandler

CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. – In December 1965, five Des Moines teenagers were kicked out of school for wearing armbands. The students slipped on black fabric strips that morning to protest the Vietnam War, and once their suspension made headlines, a few legal experts wondered about the teenagers’ freedom of speech. A long court battle ensued, with the Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District case eventually reaching the U.S. Supreme Court.

In a landmark 1969 decision, the court ruled in favor of the students, with Justice Abe Fortas writing in his majority opinion, “It can hardly be argued that either students or teachers shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate.”

More than 50 years later, with the First Amendment once again inspiring contentious political debates, a new book co-edited by Dr. Prentice Chandler, dean of Austin Peay State University’s Eriksson College of Education, is taking a fresh look at the rights of students and teachers in the 21st century. “At the Schoolhouse Gate: Stakeholder Perceptions of First Amendment Rights and Responsibilities in U.S. Public Schools,” is now available from Information Age Publishing as part of its Teaching and Learning Social Studies series.

“It is clear that in order to prepare children for participation in a democracy, democratic ideals and practices should be a part of their education,” Chandler said. “It is not an add-on to democratic education; it is democratic education. And, this education unfolds in the context of political upheaval, racial inequity and economic uncertainty. The mission of our schools is to prepare young people for entry into the world as it is—not the one that we wish existed.”

Under Chandler’s leadership, the Eriksson College of Education has earned a national reputation for its innovation in teacher preparation and recruitment. In January, Austin Peay and the Clarksville-Montgomery County School System began offering the first federally registered apprenticeship program for teaching in the country.

Dr. Nancy C. Patterson, Bowling Green State University (BGSU) professor of education, co-edited the book with Chandler. Patterson, the recipient of BGSU’s 2020 Professor of Teaching Excellence Award, is known on her campus as “a staunch advocate for social studies education” who seeks “to constantly improve the middle childhood and young adult education curricula.”

Her research focuses on democratic classroom and school pedagogies and structures, along with academic freedom and equity in assessment regimes.

The book is divided into three sections – Foundations, Case Studies of Rights in Schools and Choices to Act – and it features essays from leading education and legal scholars.

“At the Schoolhouse Gate” is available through the Information Age Publishing website or at Amazon.com.

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