Matthew Fraser (plaintiff), a high school senior was suspended for three days by the Bethel School District (defendant) after he gave a lewd speech full of sexual innuendos in front of six hundred students at a school assembly. The speech was designed to promote Fraser’s fellow classmate for a student government position, and the assembly was part of a school-sponsored educational program in self-government. During the speech, some students yelled, some performed graphic gestures, and some looked bewildered and confused. Fraser brought suit in federal district court challenging his suspension as a violation of his First Amendment right to freedom of speech. The district court ruled in his favor and the court of appeals affirmed. The United States Supreme Court granted certiorari.