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Thursday, March 01, 2007


High Court tests limits of student speach rights

As the Olympic torched passed through Juneau, Alaska, in 2002, a high school senior Joseph Frederick along with some friends unveiled a banner which read "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" as an attempt to get on TV. The principal of the school (Deborah Morse) tore down the banner and suspended Frederick for 10 days saying that because the word "bong" was a reference to marijuana, the sign violated the school's anti-drug policy. On March 19th the U.S. Supreme Court will hear the arguments in Morse V. Frederick. Similar school policies, many inspired by Colorado's Columbine incident, have banned students from wearing clothing or posting signs that focus on drugs, guns or incendiary topics such as homosexuality, abortion and religion.

In a similar case in 1969 three Iowa students who wore black armbands to school to protest the Vietnam War were suspend and went to court saying their first amendment rights had been violated. The Supreme court ruled in favor of the teenagers, saying, " it can hardly be argued that either students or teachers shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate."

When the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th circuit ruled in favor of Frederick last year in the Juneau case it cited the "Newsom decision" saying, "our sister circuits have similarly held that student speech that is neither plainly offensive nor school-sponsored can be prohibited only where the school district demonstrated a risk of substantial disruption."

I believe the Court of Appeals was correct and just because we enter a school building we do not loose our Constitutional rights. I would hope the supreme courts finds in favor of Frederick, because if we give up our first amendments rights in school, whats next?

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