Ideas, Linked; Ideals, Inked.

Bong Hits 4 Jesus: Student Breaks Constitution, Principal Helps

OR “How the Supreme Court was Brought to its Knees by an Interesting 1st Amendment in Schools Case” OR “Pot + Jesus + School + Olympics = Supreme Court”

Ideas Being Linked: 1) New 1st Amendment Case (Bong Hits 4 Jesus); 2) The New Justices; 3) Experience as a Teacher; 4) Barnette case; 5) Ken Starr???

The long and short of this case is that in 2002, a student at a school in Alaska brought a banner that said “Bong Hits 4 Jesus” to the Olympic torch parade. Principal sees the banner and suspends student for 10 days. Kid makes a federal case out of it… Literally. There are two main arguments in the case: on the one hand, the principal said the student was promoting drug use. On the other, because it was an outdoor parade, the student claims it was basically a public forum.

The article linked above points out that it may turn out that Alito sides with the student and Roberts with school. If I had writing this blog when these two were appointed, you all would know that my fears had always been that Roberts was the wolf in sheep’s clothing, who was willing to divert sovereign power away from individuals to officials.

As a former teacher, I’m torn. I would call for one of my students to be punished for being disruptive during a school assembly function. At the same time, I would have no trouble with the content of the message. Which, of course, puts me in a bind. If a student had a banner supporting Olympians, I would not object. Clearly the fact that the content was not representative of the school’s opinion is in play, but I don’t think it needs to be central. If I were the principal, my stand would be that the banner itself was disruptive, regardless of what it promoted. On that token, I would probably have objected to a “Support Our Troops” banner.

This case is ripe for reinterpreting the 1st Amendment with a new type of public forum – semi-public. I have always believed that activities that occur on school grounds have the tacit support of school officials, and thus must be held to a higher standard of Constitutional muster. For example, to me, a religious youth group that wishes to use the school grounds after school MUST agree not to exclude those of other faiths, and also not to force religious viewpoints (minor and major) to be accepted. All rules in such a semi-public space must be expressly civil.

Which leads me to Barnette. “No official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox…” On that principle alone, I think the principal’s case is weaker. She decided two things: first, that supporting drugs is bad/wrong; and second, that a student may not support bad/wrong things/ideas. This creates a slippery slope, wherein ANYBODY at a school (a teacher is a petty government official, technically first-responders) can tell any student that something is wrong, and then punish the student. Teachers need to have authority, but students must have rights.

Finally, Ken Starr (Mr. Whitewater Special Prosecutor) is helping out the principal’s side, in his 3rd Supreme Court appearance. He has had a very interesting career, with diverse high-profile causes on both sides of the aisle.

EDIT: New title.


Filed under: Culture, Politics, Weird/Funny

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Idealink by vijtable is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.
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