The rights of counter-recruiters are governed by the same guidelines that apply to First Amendment activities in general, except when the activities are at a school.
The courts have defined several types of forums that allow differing levels of restrictions on speech. Public forums, like parks and sidewalks, allow the narrowest restrictions. For example, non-students have a right to stand on public property outside a school entrance and hand out fliers or hold signs, as long as they don't impede pedestrians or vehicle traffic or cause a disruption of the educational process inside the school (e.g., using a loud bullhorn). For more information on this type of activity, see Guide to High School Leafleting and Petitioning.
Schools in general are non-public forums. Students and staff have a right to be present on school property, but the access of others is subject to the approval of school officials.
If a school establishes a forum for any outsiders to address students on a topic, it can limit access to only those who will address the same topic. Examples of forums are a career fair, a lunch time information table, a bulletin board, a classroom presentation, a bulletin announcement, and an assembly.
While schools can dictate who will be given access to a forum, they cannot practice viewpoint-based discrimination by only allowing one side to be presented on a controversial subject. It is this principle of equal access that provides a legal basis for schools to give counter-recruiters the same access that is given to military representatives. For more information on equal access for counter-recruiters, see COUNTER RECRUITER ACCESS TO HIGH SCHOOLS.
- The National Network Opposing the Militarization of Youth 2015 Back-to-school Kit for Counter-recruitment and School Demilitarization Organizing is available to assist you in understanding the work, your rights, and the challenges to return to the public schools to counter-recruit. Please visit this page and review the materials we have assembled for you and feel free to ask questions as well at Our Contact Page and we will do our best to answer you or your group in a timely manner.
- Using Equal Access to Counter Militarism in High Schools
- School District Policies Documents
- Ninth Circuit Court Ruling: Equal Access to High Schools (PDF)
- 'Counter-recruiters' shadowing the military
- Guide to High School Leafleting and Petitioning