Court Case Tests Limits of Student Speech Rights

  Court Case Tests Limits of Student Speech Rights

Posted by CN Staff on February 28, 2007 at 20:28:15 PT
By Joan Biskupic, USA Today 
Source: USA Today  

Washington, DC -- When the Olympic torch passed through Juneau, Alaska, in 2002, high school senior Joseph Frederick thought it would be fun to get on TV. As the torch relay passed by his school, Frederick led his friends in unfurling a banner that read, "Bong Hits 4 Jesus."It was, Frederick said later, an attempt to get attention with a nonsensical message.
Deborah Morse, the principal at Juneau-Douglas High School, saw something more. She tore down the banner and suspended Frederick for 10 days, saying that because "bong" was a reference to marijuana, the sign violated the school's anti-drug policy.Five years later, the spat in Juneau has become a significant legal test of students' speech rights — and of how far school officials can go in limiting such rights to try to maintain order in schools. On March 19, when the U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments in Morse v. Frederick, school officials nationwide will be watching for signs of whether the justices will make it more difficult to enforce a range of campus speech regulations that have been imposed in recent years.Such policies — many inspired by the slayings of a dozen students and a teacher by two outcasts at Colorado's Columbine High School in 1999 — have banned students from wearing clothing or posting signs that focus on drugs, guns or incendiary topics such as homosexuality, abortion and religion.The Juneau case will be the first major dispute over student speech rights to come before the high court in nearly two decades. It requires the justices to revisit a landmark ruling from 1969, when the court decided a dispute involving three Iowa students who wore black armbands to school to protest the Vietnam War. They were suspended and went to court, saying their First Amendment speech rights had been violated.The Supreme Court ruled for 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."Since then, that view has been somewhat diluted by rulings that have allowed schools to ban "plainly offensive" speech of a sexual nature, and to have wide latitude over control of school-sponsored speech, such as articles in school newspapers. However, lower courts have not been consistent in determining what kind of messages are "plainly offensive" and what types of student speech can be punished.The court's ruling in the current case, like the decisions in the earlier disputes, would not be likely to affect the rights of college students. In middle and high schools, where nearly all of the students are minors and administrators adopt a parent-like role, administrators have a stronger legal hand to maintain discipline and set rules for student speech.In a court brief filed in support of Morse and the Juneau school board, attorneys for the National School Boards Association say that as schools grapple with increased violence and drug use, it's important for administrators to be able to regulate slogans dealing with particularly controversial issues.Complete Title: High Court Case Tests Limits of Student Speech Rights Snipped:Complete Article: USA Today (US)Author: Joan Biskupic, USA TodayPublished: February 27, 2007Copyright: 2007 USA Today, a division of Gannett Co. Inc.Contact: editor usatoday.comWebsite: Articles:Bong Hits Saga Enters Year Five Court Takes `Bong Hits' Case on Free Speech Takes 'Bong Hits 4 Jesus' Case

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Comment #4 posted by FoM on March 04, 2007 at 06:39:19 PT

ADN: Bong Hits 4 Jesus goes To The Supreme Court 
JUNEAU: Teen suspended for banner gets his day in nation's highest court. By Tom Kizzia, Anchorage Daily News Published: March 4, 2007 The long journey started five years ago, on a quiet afternoon at Juneau-Douglas High School, as a student sat alone in the commons area reading Albert Camus' novel "The Stranger." In mid-March the road ends at the U.S. Supreme Court, where the nationally watched "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" case will test the limits of free speech in public schools.Joe Frederick was an 18-year-old senior back then. His classes were done for the day, and "Camaro Joe," as some kids called him, was waiting for his girlfriend to finish so he could give her a ride home. As Frederick recalls the story, a vice principal approached and told him he couldn't stay in the commons without supervision. He would have to leave the campus to wait for her. Frederick refused. He insisted he had a right to sit quietly in his own school and read a French existentialist. Two Juneau police officers were summoned, and Frederick left after they threatened to arrest him for trespass. The next morning at school, Frederick turned his chair around and sat with his back to the flag during the Pledge of Allegiance. "This was my symbolic protest against a school administration that clearly lacked common sense and abused its power to retaliate against anyone who dared question their authority," he wrote later in a mini-autobiography where he quoted Thoreau, Voltaire and Martin Luther King.Frederick said his father was summoned to the school to discuss a possible suspension. School officials say they have no record of the incident. Regarding a suspension at that point, the Supreme Court was already clear. In the unsettled world of free speech rights in public schools the right to refuse to salute the flag is one of the few established points.After that, Frederick said, he resolved to find a free speech protest that would draw wider notice.He found one.Snipped:Complete Article:
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Comment #3 posted by Richard Zuckerman on March 03, 2007 at 12:08:49 PT:

Your vote for Democrat and Republican party candidates are the ones whom imprison your youth with these glorified baby sitters,! Libertarian Party candidates want to eliminate compulsory school attendance laws; legalize, regulate and tax "Marijuana"; water down the corporate fascism.Congressman Ron Paul (Libertarian "Republican"-Texas), member of the House Liberary Caucus, is apparently running for U.S. President. He should introduce a Constitutional Amendment prohibiting the secret plan for the "North American Union." U.S. President Bush, Mexican President Vincente Fox, and some inside federal government employees are successfully pulling the rug over our eyes by having you Democrats and Republicans believe that this Council on Foreign Relations plan "North American Union", by the year 2010, is GOOD for Americans!!! You people are well aware of the United Nations International Narcotics Treaties! I doubt we will obtain the decriminalization, legalization, regulation, taxation, of "Marijuana" from this "North American Union." You can "thank" your parents and friends for voting Democrats and Republicans for the upheaval of our present country! You should hear the Libertarian Party point of view!!!!!!I am awaiting the final decision of the Appellate Division of the Superior Court of New Jersey on my appeal in which I am asking the state appeals court to recognize a cause of action for Retaliatory Prosecution under the State Constitution Liberty of speech. Not the federal constitutional First Amendment freedom of speech. The STATE constitution freedom of speech. Do you know where is your State Constitution freedom of speech? Why have a State Constitution if everybody only knows about the federal constitution?Texas Governor requires girls to receive vaccination against cervical cancer? Those toxic vaccines! You people vote Democrats and Republicans to allow the pharamaceutical cartel to force your girls to receive vaccination against some bug which could cause cervical cancer? Those vaccines might prove more harmful than the cervical cancer! I wonder if Anna Nicole Smith died from over-prescribing doctors? You would not trust government forced vaccinations after you read the web article entitled "The History of the Business With Disease", by Dr. Matthias Rath. A few years ago, I sent Dr. Rath a letter supporting his complaint of genocide against the pharmaceutical cartel, for the Hague. Recently Henry Paulson, Secretary of the U.S. Department of the Treasury, was held by German authorities, apparently from authorization by the World Court. More recently Vice-President Dick Cheney engaged in furtherance of same theft of the Wanta Plan Settlement, I wonder if the federal government's theft of the $4.5 Trillion Wanta Plan Settlement was that "secret money" CNN news briefly mentioned in one news segment less than a week ago? The "Free Trade Agreements," Open-border immigration and amnesty, the plan for the "North American Union" by the year 2010 by the Council On Foreign Relations, are more in-your-face pressing problems facing this country you need to be worried about than "Marijuana"!! Not coincidentally, though, Libertarian Party wants to stop it. Congressman Ron Paul I believe also wants to stop it. Henceforth, on Election Day, please look for Libertarian Party candidates, Ron Paul, for U.S. Presidential candidates? Alternatively, Green Party? Alternatively, all U.S. House of Representatives whom had been members of the Liberty Caucus? If the school allowed students to leave school property to watch some event, then this defendant should be clothed in the full protection of the U.S. Constitution, First Amendment, freedom of speech, and the State Constitutional freedom of speech, if defendant asserted it in his civil rights complaint.I hope you "sheeple" enjoy watching this country's sovereignty vanishing under the guise of a "North American Union." Aren't you proud of your voting for Democrats and Republicans? And your wonderful public school "education"?
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Comment #2 posted by Sam Adams on March 01, 2007 at 10:32:16 PT

Administrators as parents?
Who signed up for that? Who made the decision that educators are to serve as parents? Actually not educators - adminstrators.  Where did they get trained to act as parents?  When did the citizens endow them with that power and role? Did I miss something?I love this bit:"We are counting on this case to give us clarity," says Peggy Cowan, superintendent of the Juneau school district. "It was important (for Morse) to take the sign down. Leaving it up would have communicated that it was OK to promote the use of illegal drugs."Guess what - it IS okay to promote the use of illegal drugs. That is speech. It is not drug use. It is not even close to drug use. Are we going to have freedom of speech, or shall we spit on the memory of the Founding Fathers and use the Constitution for toilet paper?Consider that parents do NOT have a choice of which school to send their kids, or which government should act as "parents" for the kids. It's not like you can pick the Church you go to - there's only One choice for federal government. One Supreme Court. One Holy Father Cheney.  One Monsignor John Walters.I wonder how most American parents would react if they were asked "Do you want the administrators of the local public school system to act as parents for your child?" I don't think many parents would approve that at all.
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Comment #1 posted by ekim on February 28, 2007 at 20:48:55 PT

Rep. Dennis Kucinich please pick a date and 
Join with Howard Wooldridge of LEAP and talk about ending the war on drugs with the help of Law Enforcement Officers Against Prohibition.Apr 6 07 Canton Rotary 11:45 AM Howard Wooldridge Canton Ohio USA 
 Canton Rotary Apr 10 07 Ohio State University 07:00 PM Howard Wooldridge Columbus Ohio USA 
 John Glenn School of Govt Apr 12 07 Ohio State University 07:00 PM Howard Wooldridge Columbus Ohio USA 
 Room 20, Page Hall, John Glenn School of Govt, OSU, Columbus, OH URL:
Newshawk: Kirk
 Votes: 0
Pubdate: Sun, 25 Feb 2007
Source: Repository, The (Canton, OH)
Address: 500 Market Ave. S., Canton, OH 44702
Fax: (330) 454-5745
Copyright: 2007 The Repository
Author: David C. KaminskiJUDGE'S COLUMN MAY PROMPT DEBATE IN CANTON ABOUT U.S. DRUG LAWS Editor's Note In the closing days of December, we published an essay by Harry Klide, the retired Stark County Common Pleas Court trial judge. In it, he questioned the U.S. practice of locking up drug users and sellers. He cited the high rate of imprisonment in the United States and the failure to curtail the drug trade. He invited citizens to become interested in this problem. A representative from Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, headquartered in Medford, Mass., subsequently contacted Klide. If you are interested in learning more, LEAP's Web page is: The organization wants to come to Canton and help lead a public discussion of ending prohibition of drugs and stopping the practice of locking up drug users. One of the groups Klide hopes to offer a presentation to is the Canton Rotary. He has an April date in mind. We will tell you more about this when the time comes. I will be interested in seeing how this community reacts to the message of LEAP. 
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