- Nov 22, 2003
- Reaction score
Brown v. Board of Ed was so necessary. Tinker sucked. Guess which one has been more far reaching? What has been called 'first amendment rights for students' has gotten way out of hand. Schools, public or private, are not necessarily run by the brightest lights:
The U.S. Supreme Court this week took up the "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" case. At issue is whether a high school principal violated a senior's free-speech rights when she ordered him to take down a banner bearing that slogan, which he had unfurled near the school, and later suspended him. The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals held that the principal did indeed violate the First Amendment, and the high court heard oral arguments earlier this week.
To our mind, just about everyone did the wrong thing here. The kid shouldn't have unfurled the banner; the principal shouldn't have overreacted to it; and the judges should have laughed the whole case out of court. But here we are.
The federal courts have been in the business of regulating local schools in this way for almost four decades, since the 1969 case of Tinker v. Des Moines, in which the high court held that a student had the right to wear an armband at school to protest the Vietnam War. In dissent, Justice Hugo Black observed:
The Court's holding in this case ushers in what I deem to be an entirely new era in which the power to control pupils by the elected "officials of state supported public schools . . ." in the United States is in ultimate effect transferred to the Supreme Court.
Our colleague Dan Henninger urges in his column this week: "Rather than just fiddle with the dials on the school-speech contraption, the solution would be to take Tinker and throw it out the window." It's an appealing idea, although when we read stories like this one, from the Enterprise of Brockton, Mass., we wonder if school officials can be trusted with that kind of responsibility:
The [unidentified] boy, then 6, was suspended from school on Jan. 30, 2006 for three days after the principal said he had violated sexual harassment policy by touching a female classmate inside her clothing waistband during a class. . . .Come to think of it, Henninger's probably right. Sexual harassment law, too, is a product of the U.S. Supreme Court. Maybe acting with common sense wouldn't be too much to ask of teachers and school administrators, but carrying out complicated and arbitrary legal doctrines is.
The lawsuit states that on Jan. 30, 2006, teachers at the Downey School took the boy out of class, made him put his head down on a table, kept him from lunch and told him "that he was very bad and that he had sexually harassed a classmate." . . .
Gosselin, the principal, then brought the boy to her office, made him sit in the corner, and said to the boy "that he had touched the other student in (a) sexual way, and that he had sexually harassed her," the lawsuit states.
The boy also "signed a statement" at the school before his mother was contacted to come to the school to get her son, the lawsuit states.