Social dancing not protected under First Amendment

ST. LOUIS -- Dancing is not a form of expression protected by the First Amendment, an appeals court ruled Monday.

The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decided against a group of parents who had sued Vilonia School District No. 17 in Faulkner County, Ark., over the right to hold high school dances in the school gymnasium.


The parents contended that dancing is a form of expression protected by the First Amendment, and that school property was a public forum.

But the appeals court sided with the U.S. District Court in Arkansas, which ruled the school gymnasium was not a public forum.

The appeals court went one step further, saying, 'We hold that social or recreational dancing is not, in the circumstances of this case, entitled to First Amendment protection.'

The parents claimed the school district denied their request to rent the gymnasium because of pressure from religious sectors of the community that believe that dancing is amoral and should not be permitted in public schools.

The appeals court said social or recreational dancing was not 'speech.'

'The plaintiffs simply want their children to have the opportunity to dance for social or recreational purposes, for their own edification, and not for the enjoyment of an audience,' said the court.


'The dancing here is not claimed to involve any political or ideological message. It is not intended to convey any kind of message, unless it be the message that the plaintifs do not believe that dancing is wrong.'

'When conduct conveys a message, that is, when it is expressive, it may be entitled to a measure of First Amendment protection.'

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