The US Supreme Court just heard an amusing case on the limits of student speech, that reportedly had christians and other conservatives siding with an apparently rebellious young pot smoker against the school administration, because they too want to preserve their right to state their messages.
[quote]Court Probes Limits on Student Speech
A high school senior’s 14-foot banner proclaiming ‘‘Bong Hits 4 Jesus’’ gave the Supreme Court a provocative prop for a lively argument Monday about the extent of schools’ control over student speech.
If the justices conclude Joseph Frederick’s homemade sign was a pro-drug message, they are likely to side with principal Deborah Morse. She suspended Frederick in 2002 when he unfurled the banner across the street from the school in Juneau, Alaska.
‘‘I thought we wanted our schools to teach . . . . not to use drugs,’’ Chief Justice Roberts said Monday.
But the court could rule for Frederick if it determines that he was, as he has contended, conducting a free-speech experiment using a nonsensical message that contained no pitch for drug use.
‘‘It sounds like just a kid’s provocative statement to me,’’ Justice David Souter said.
Students in public schools don’t have the same rights as adults, but neither do they leave their constitutional protections at the schoolhouse gate, as the court said in a landmark speech-rights ruling from Vietnam era. . . .
Douglas Mertz of Juneau, Frederick’s lawyer, struggled to keep the focus away from drugs. ‘‘This is a case about free speech. It is not a case about drugs,’’ Mertz said.
Conservative groups that often are allied with the administration are backing Frederick out of concern that a ruling for Morse would let schools clamp down on religious expression, including speech that might oppose homosexuality or abortion . . . .
What if, Souter asked, a student held a small sign in a Shakespeare class with the same message Frederick used. ‘‘If the kids look around and they say, well, so and so has got his bong sign again,’’ Souter said, as laughter filled the courtroom. ‘‘They then return to Macbeth. Does the teacher have to, does the school have to tolerate that sign in the Shakespeare class?’’
Justice Antonin Scalia, ridiculing the notion that schools should have to tolerate speech that seems to support illegal activities, asked about a button that says, ‘‘Smoke Pot, It’s Fun.’’ . . . .[/quote]
nytimes.com/aponline/us/AP-S … ts.html?hp
A decision is expected in the case by July. Incidentally, the student who posted the sign and was kicked out of school for it is now studying and teaching in China.