Tuesday, June 26, 2007

High School Students Do Not Enjoy Freedom of Speech

A high school student created a banner which read: "Bong Hits 4 Jesus." He was disciplined by his high school despite his claim to freedom of speech. Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against the student indicating that student "free speech" rights do not exist when the message advocates illegal drug use.

The Supreme Court voted 5 to 4 on Monday against a student's right to display the banner. the court granted schools the power to restrict expression of pro-drug speech and apparently publications. Joseph Frederick, at a school-sanctioned event in 2002, was suspended for displaying the banner."The message on Frederick's banner is cryptic," said Chief Justice John Roberts. Justices Samuel Alito and Anthony Kennedy said the court's opinion "goes no further" than speech interpreted as dealing with illegal drug use."It provides no support" for any restriction that goes to political or social issues.

Justice Stephen Breyer said the court should have simply held that Frederick was not entitled to monetary damages because school officials have qualified immunity. (Frederick, now 23, said he had to drop out of college after his father lost his job working for the company that insures the Juneau schools.) Frank Frederick , the boy's father, was fired in connection with his son's legal fight. A jury awarded the elder Frederick $200,000 in a lawsuit over the firing.

Contrast that to a Newark New Jersey school district. It said that it regrets removing a picture of a male student kissing his boyfriend from a high school yearbook. Andre Jackson, the student, was disappointed that the Newark schools superintendent had not delivered the apology face-to-face in public. Jackson, age 18, said: "I would accept an apology - a public apology."

The district said it would issue an unredacted version of the yearbook to any student of East Side High School who wants one. District spokeswoman Valerie Merritt said school official Bolden would meet with Jackson on Tuesday. Previously, Bolden had allegedly commented that the picture, which showed Jackson kissing 19 year old David Escobales, was "illicit."

Steven Goldstein, chairman of the gay rights group Garden State Equality, said Jackson had not heard from the district as of 10 p.m. Monday.

Jackson said his sexual orientation was never a problem at school.
Newark public schools have about 42,000 students.


Anonymous said...

I am all for student rights. But I have to agree on this one. We simply can't be encouraging students to smoke dope on school grounds.


Anonymous said...

Its blatant prejudice. While I am not a supporter of drug use, I think students should have freedom of speech. So an 18 year old can go to war and die, but he can't speak or write his opinion? I don't see that as fair.

Ron P.

Anonymous said...

Oh come on, dude. How about student loans. Can't expect to ride on the back of your parents your whole life.


Anonymous said...

What would the Supreme Court say about freedom of speech for students advocating the gay life style?

Anonymous said...

Is there a religious reason underlying the bong case? Religious folks may be offended that Jesus is used to advocate drug use.

The year book picture is a hard call. As Seinfeld says, not that there is anything wrong with that, but...

Anonymous said...

Not sure any one wants to rial the feathers of the Gay rights groups... except perhaps the religious right wing.

Might explain the difference in treatment.

Anonymous said...

Not sure sexual orientation is a problem, but it can be a distraction in some cases.

Ms. Calabaza said...

I think the decision is based exclusively on "drug use" which the Federal government is against promoting. This is a public school, so they determined that the principal was correct in stopping the young man.

Viper said...

Ms. C., you are correct in that this administration and their appointed justices are anti drug. Just say No has been a Republic theme for over a decade. But I suspect this administration (with the exception of perhaps Chaney) is generally against homosexuality and same sex marriage. I am not sure what the Supreme Court would have done with this particular case had it been considered.