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America’s transgender youth are entrenched in a nationwide mental health crisis. A majority of transgender teenage boys have attempted suicide at least once, and roughly a third of transgender teenage girls have done the same. To mitigate this national emergency, many public school districts have begun requiring their teachers to use transgender students’ preferred names and pronouns. Many conservatives, however, insist that such rules violate the First Amendment’s prohibition of compelled speech.

This article thoroughly dissects that argument and exposes its flaws. It examines the compelled‑speech objection through the lens of the government speech doctrine, weighs countervailing academic‑freedom concerns, proposes a new test for analyzing academic‑freedom challenges under Garcetti v. Ceballos, and concludes that—at least in the K‑12 realm—most compelled‑speech challenges should fail as a matter of law. The article breaks new scholarly ground while providing an argumentative roadmap for practitioners defending public school districts against compelled‑speech claims.

—Philip Seaver‑Hall

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