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"Bong Hits 4 Jesus" Case:
The Supreme Court handed down 5 new cases today as the Term is coming soon to its end; among today's decisions was Morse v. Frederick, a.k.a. the "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" case.

   Chief Justice Roberts wrote the 5-Justice majority opinion, which held that schools can punish student speech reasonably believed to promote illegal drug use (which in the majority's view the "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" banner did).

  There were a slew of concurrences in the case, suggesting that the Court was much more splintered than the majority opinion indicates. Justice Alito concurred, joined by Kennedy, stating that he joined the majority opinion on the understanding that the holding was really very very narrow. According to Alito, the case is really just about speech that promotes illegal drug use in schools without a plausible claim to making an argument relating to a social or political issue (whether about the war on drugs or something else).

  On the other side of the narrow/broad divide, Justice Thomas wrote a separate concurring opinion endorsing Justice Black's dissenting opinion in Tinker v. Des Moines to the effect that public school students don't have First Amendment rights at school at all. (Pretty impressive that Roberts kept a majority together given the broad range of views among the five Justices that joined it.)

  Justice Breyer concurred in the judgment: he would have resolved the case on qualified immunity grounds without reaching the merits. Justice Stevens dissented, joined by Justices Souter and Ginsburg.
Houston Lawyer:
I'm with Justice Thomas on this one. Once upon a time, order and discipline were enforced in public schools. Sure, it's not always fair, but the alternative has proven to be worse.
6.25.2007 1:41pm
Miffed:
Regardless of how you come down on this issue, the Supreme Court needed to clearly set forth rules on this constitutional framework. Tinker, Fraser, and Hazelwood interact in such an odd way that there is a lot of confusion in the lower courts regarding how these cases interact, et cetera. They need to make up their minds already and clearly establish the law. I had hoped they would do so in this case, but it doesn't sound like it.
6.25.2007 1:43pm
Guest44:
I agree with Stevens that this was not a school event.

The principal sent the school out on a field trip on a public street, to see the running of the olympic torch.

The student skipped school that day, and showed up at the same event with his banner, trying to get on TV.
6.25.2007 1:46pm
TJIT (mail):
Houston Lawyer,

Except in this case IIRC the speech was at an event off of the school grounds. Student skipped school to display the banner and was punished not for skipping school but rather for the content of his poster.

I could be mistaken so please correct me if I got the facts wrong.
6.25.2007 1:49pm
Bill Sommerfeld (www):
Guest44: Maybe your school was different but at mine I was always under the impression that school-organized field trips were school events, even when they weren't particularly well organized and even if some of the kids got there independently under their own power.
6.25.2007 1:53pm
Randy R. (mail):
INteresting, Thomas' concurrance. He cites approvingly a case from 1915 in which a student was disciplined for giving a speech about the fact that the school was an unsafe fire hazard, and that school officials did nothing to improve it.

Of course. It's much better to let students die in a fire than to allow them criticize authority. That'll teach 'em.

And that is what courses throughout his concurrance -- "Question Authority" is now grounds for discipline, in his mind. Discipline and order, these are the watchwords of the day. Now, I agree, some schools do indeed need more discipline and order, certainly, but I'm not sure how restricting student's ability to question authority accomplishes it.
6.25.2007 1:55pm
Justin (mail):
I'm very interested in EV's take on the case. Alito's opinion is disturbing - the idea for judges to read political messages right out of an ambiguous statement seems to me to be the wrong approach. It seems more like the sad old "drugs exception" to the constitution rearing its ugly head, even if Alito and Roberts took care to note that a "clearer" political statement against the war on drugs would gain the protection of constitutional rights.
6.25.2007 1:56pm
Justin (mail):
"Guest44: Maybe your school was different but at mine I was always under the impression that school-organized field trips were school events, even when they weren't particularly well organized and even if some of the kids got there independently under their own power."

I think this "creative" approach to the definition of a school event could do more harm than good, even outside the contours of the first amendment. Liability and agency issues alone could be troubling.
6.25.2007 1:58pm
WHOI Jacket:
IIRC, all the forms that I sent home to the parental units to get signed explicitly stated that field trips, assemblies, etc. were "school events".
6.25.2007 1:59pm
Houston Lawyer:
TJIT

As far as I know, you have the facts correct. When I went to public school, the principal would punish you for off-campus behavior. Detention was handed out for off-campus smoking, among other things. The neighboring school, our arch-rivals and home of Erik Dickerson, kicked off the majority of the football team for the entire season for attending an off-campus beer party. Pretty much every one I knew thought that the decision was harsh but fair and commended the man for his integrity for punishing this particular group.

Twenty years later, the school located 15 miles in the other direction faced law suits when it banned participation by all 8 cheerleaders who turned up pregnant.
6.25.2007 2:00pm
srg:
Randy R.,
While I too disagree with Thomas, you seem to be conflating good policy with good constitutional law interprertation.
6.25.2007 2:01pm
Randy R. (mail):
The court goes ot great length to show that the phrase Bong Hits 4 Jesus is "promoting" illegal drug use. So had they merely had a phrase "BB guns 4 Jesus" there would not have been a problem? According to Thomas, it appears ANY sort of banner would have been subject to disciplinary action. According to the majority, it would not, since it's not promoting anything illegal.

So a thoughtful article by a school journalist on the wisdom of making pot illegal for medical usage would not be allowed, since it obviously is 'promoting' an illegal use. A challenge or even discussion of any law would likewise be prohibited.

What if the banner said "gays 4 Jesus"? Being gay isn't illegal, and you would have to stretch it to say it's promoting gays. What if the banner said "Gin and tonics 4 Jesus?" Alcohol isn't illegal for most people, but it is for high school students, so what applies?

Far from clarifying free speech for students, this merely muddles it. Or worse, it states that any statement that might reasonably be interpreted as a violation of school principles is restricted.
6.25.2007 2:04pm
Randy R. (mail):
srg: "While I too disagree with Thomas, you seem to be conflating good policy with good constitutional law interprertation."

Or perhaps it is Thomas who is.
6.25.2007 2:07pm
Anderson (mail) (www):
Those who won't read the opinions, should note that Stevens conceded the school's right to remove the banner; he disagreed that there was a basis to discipline the student for the content of the message.

Moreover, concern about a nationwide evaluation of the conduct of the JDHS student body would have justified the principal's decision to remove an attention-grabbing 14-foot banner, even if it had merely proclaimed "Glaciers Melt!"

I agree with the Court that the principal should not be held liable for pulling down Frederick's banner.
6.25.2007 2:07pm
Anderson (mail) (www):
So a thoughtful article by a school journalist on the wisdom of making pot illegal for medical usage would not be allowed, since it obviously is 'promoting' an illegal use.

They actually distinguish that sort of thing, tho how it will play with school administrators &district courts is another matter.
6.25.2007 2:08pm
Carolina:
The majority opinion is troublesome and very unconvincing. Basically, the majority severs advocacy of "illegal drug use" from any constitutional protection in schools. This is accomplished by claiming it is not a political message because it didn't for, example, argue for a change in the marijuana laws.

In other words, the Court seems to be saying "Marijuana should be legalized" is protected speech (or at least might be) while "I like marijuana and you should too" is unprotected. This is simply silly as a matter of logic.

Further, the distinctions claimed with regard to Tinker are unconvincing. The majority mocks the "Bong hits for Jesus" slogan for lacking a political advocacy message - but what about Tinker, where the students simply wore black armbands. The black armbands did not contain some well-reasoned political argument about why Vietnam was wrong, they were just a vague symbol of protest. Certainly the "message content" of a strip of black cloth (vague anti-Vietnam war) is no greater than "Bong hits for Jesus" (vague pro-marijuana).

Finally, the majority's analysis would seem to say that the Tinker case would have been decided differently had the armbands said "Dodge the draft and hide in Canada so the government can't catch you" (advocacy of illegal conduct) rather than just being a generic symbol of "opposition" to the Vietnam war.

One of the weakest decisions in recent memory.
6.25.2007 2:09pm
JRL:
So a thoughtful article by a school journalist on the wisdom of making pot illegal for medical usage would not be allowed, since it obviously is 'promoting' an illegal use. A challenge or even discussion of any law would likewise be prohibited.

That's quite a s t r e t c h.
6.25.2007 2:10pm
NYU 3L:
The case is bizarre for the fact that the court has unanimously agreed that there is a drug exception to the First Amendment. Even the dissenters agreed that schools could punish speech advocating drug use, they just disagreed that the speech was actually advocacy.


So a thoughtful article by a school journalist on the wisdom of making pot illegal for medical usage would not be allowed, since it obviously is 'promoting' an illegal use. A challenge or even discussion of any law would likewise be prohibited.


Possibly. Alito and Kennedy would switch sides in that instance, based on their concurrence (it's a statement about whether pot should be legal, rather than whether people should take it.) I don't think the liberal justices would switch sides, so you'd probably get a 6-3 for the student in that situation.

However, what if the student passed around a leaflet claiming that scientists have shown that smoking pot in moderation can reduce stress, relieve nausea and headaches, and has other medical benefits? If I'm reading the opinions right, the court would come down 9-0 in favor of the school. Which I think is completely absurd.
6.25.2007 2:11pm
Bill Sommerfeld (www):
TJIT: I may be wrong but as best as I can tell from reading the decision, the Justices all agree (even the dissenters!) that the banner was displayed at a school-organized event and that the principal should not be punished for pulling down the banner (see the 2nd paragraph of the dissent).
6.25.2007 2:11pm
BruceM (mail) (www):
No other constitutional protection applies to drugs, so why should the First Amendment? Not surprising they'd carve out a drug exception like they have for the 4th, 5th, 6th, 14th, etc. amendments.
6.25.2007 2:15pm
Alan H. Martin:
Not having read the decision, let alone the whole record, I'd like to know:

* Whether the school claimed that it was exercising powers
in loco parentis,
-if-so-
* Whether such a claim was supported by the facts,
-and-in-any-case-
* The limits of such powers; when a school does *not* possess
powers over minors.
6.25.2007 2:19pm
wm13:
I'm glad to see that my method of constitutional prediction for school speech cases is here vindicated. My method states that the First Amendment protects speech that the Justices would respect if their grandchildren were making it. So dignified protest against the Vietnam War is allowed, but ribald jokes and stoner humor are not. The Justices are still thinking about evangelicals: clearly having an evangelical grandchild would be a little embarrassing in the circles frequented by the average Supreme Court justice, but not as embarrassing as a stoner grandchild.
6.25.2007 2:20pm
Hans Bader (mail):
This decision won't restore order and discipline in the schools.

It wasn't the First Amendment that undermined order and discipline. It was other areas of the law, such as state law restrictions on discipline, overzealous lower court applications of due-process rulings like Goss v. Lopez, and, still worse, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, which makes it difficult to expel violent kids with purported behavioral or emotional "disabilities."

I sympathize with Houston Lawyer's worries about the erosion of discipline in the schools, but that won't be fixed by this Supreme Court decision.

As I have explained at SCOTUSblog in past comments, although this was a close case, the court should have ruled in favor of the student as to whether the First Amendment was violated (at least to the extent of overturning the summary judgment against him on that ground), and the principal as to the issue of qualified immunity.
6.25.2007 2:23pm
Syd (mail):
The majority coming out to restrict speech in this case is the same majority supporting it in today's Federal Election Commission V. Wisconsin Right to Life.
6.25.2007 2:24pm
WHOI Jacket:
Wait, I thought the problem was that they were all Catholics, now the SC is worried and pre-ocupied with Evangelicals?
6.25.2007 2:29pm
Erasmus_ (mail):
It looks like to me that Steven's dissent was really a concurrence in the judgment styled as a dissent, as he agrees that the principal should get qualified immunity. (Perhaps I'm missing something there.)

Thomas argues that the First Amendment does not cover student speech because courts did not recognize that it did during the early 18th century. I could be wrong, but hasn't Thomas taken an absolutist view of the First Amendment's speech guarantee? I mean, does he now think that seditious libel is not protected by the First Amendment because of the Alien and Sedition Act?

Stevens' dissent is great. At times he seems to allude to the current war in Iraq and notes that Tinker arose in a time when people equated dissenting on the war to being unpatriotic. (Sound familiar?) I also like that he quotes an Alito opinion from the Third Circuit -- noting in the citation that it's from Alito -- in support of a broad view of Tinker.
6.25.2007 2:33pm
Steve2:
Alan, the school did make the in loco parentis claim. Alito (and Kennedy) flatly rejected it in the following paragraph:


The public schools are invaluable and beneficent institutions, but they are, after all, organs of the State. When public school authorities regulate student speech, they act as agents of the State; they do not stand in the shoes of the students’ parents. It is a dangerous fiction to pretend that parents simply delegate their authority -- —including their authority to determine what their children may say and hear -- —to public school authorities. It is even more dangerous to assume that such a delegation of authority
somehow strips public school authorities of their status as
agents of the State. Most parents, realistically, have no
choice but to send their children to a public school and
little ability to influence what occurs in the school. It is
therefore wrong to treat public school officials, for purposes relevant to the First Amendment, as if they were
private, nongovernmental actors standing in loco parentis.


Can't say that I disagree with that part of their concurrence in any way.

Thomas, on the other hand, relies heavily on the doctrine in his concurrence. Roberts's opinion and the dissent don't mention it at all.

Given what I know about the facts, particularly Fredericks's age at the time of the incident, I'd say they don't support the claim. Or rather, if the doctrine is such that they do, then I'm opposed to the doctrine.
6.25.2007 2:34pm
CJColucci:
When I read the oral arguments, I saw a bunch of lawyers desperately trying to lose this case in the service of some larger agenda. Some of them succeeded and the others came uncomfortably close.
I don't see why a principal can't stop a student at a school event from unfurling a great big banner without warning no matter what it says, as long as what it says is (largely) irrelevant. I say "largely" because I'd leave some discretion for a principal who might be inclined to let the banner-unfurling slide for obviously innocuous matter if, in his or her judgment, taking ther banner down would be more disruptive than leaving it up.
This would be clean and simple, and wouldn't leave free speech rights in such a mess.
6.25.2007 2:36pm
Recovering Law Grad:
This goes to the above exchange between Guest44 and Sommerfeld.

As I understand the facts of this case, the student (who I believe was an adult at the time, correct me if I'm wrong) woke up, elected not to attend school, went to a public sidewalk that was across from, but not on, school property and unfurled a banner. The student was *not* let out of school to attend a field trip or a school-sponsored event because there he was not in school to begin with. As I see it, he was on the sidewalk (the paradigmatic public forum) on his own time and outside of his capacity as a student.

I suppose one might argue that he availed himself of the school's authority by going to the event but I think that argument would only be effective if he had actually gone onto school grounds or otherwise announced to a school official that he was electing to join his class. But that didn't happen here.

Someone mentioned insurance/liability issues above. Is there any doubt about what argument the school district would have made had this student slipped and fell on the non-school sidewalk and attempted to recover from the district?

The most troubling aspect of this decision is that it seems to expand a public school's authority to discipline students for speech made on their own time and outside of school. Seems a little nuts to me.
6.25.2007 2:39pm
plunge (mail):
"Thomas argues that the First Amendment does not cover student speech because courts did not recognize that it did during the early 18th century. I could be wrong, but hasn't Thomas taken an absolutist view of the First Amendment's speech guarantee?"

So much for the Thomas the unheralded genius and ever-consistent jurist meme.
6.25.2007 2:42pm
Stan C (mail):
Thomas cites a long line of cases and other contemporary sources to show that, from the founding of this country until Tinker, it was generally understood that students didn't have first amendment speech rights in school. By mockingly highligting the 1915 case, one that must be especially shocking to the modern liberal sensibility, Randy R. is actually reinforcing Thomas's point. Discipline, orderliness, and decorum were once thought to be vital to education, and schoolmasters were given wide latitude in enforcing those standards.

Thomas is making the perfectly logical assertion that Tinker upended the historical understanding that had prevailed at the time the Constitution was ratified, and for nearly two centuries thereafter.

He concurs with the majority, as the opinion further undermines Tinker, but believes that it imposes yet another complication for lower courts striving to interpret the Supreme Court's guidance on student free speech rights. Thus, in his view, the best course would be simply to abandon Tinker. Whether you agree with that or not, it's hard to argue with Thomas on grounds of clarity.
6.25.2007 2:43pm
Steve2:
Stan, wouldn't strengthening Tinker by repudiating the post-Tinker rulings that put limits on speech have also served clarity?
6.25.2007 2:48pm
plunge (mail):
The court also handed down a decision in which they found that its kosher for the government to take your money, use it to fund some unambiguously unconstitutional act, and you don't have standing to sue.

That's like arguing that you can mug someone and give the money to your wife, but only your wife has standing to sue in civil court if she thinks that sequence of events is unfair.
6.25.2007 2:50pm
James Ellis (mail):
This is sure to be a short lived victory for school districts. It is only a matter of time (and opportunity) before a slightly more enterprising kid unfurls the "Overturn Bong hits 4 Jesus" banner. Thank goodness the school year is over--otherwise I am sure that some jerk would be out there printing up the sign right now.

After all, that's not a drug message either way--it's a pure 1st Amendment/Free Speech message. Smartly crafted declarations can make any 11th grade stoner into a young James Madison.

Then taxpayers like me can have the privilege of wasting millions of dollars and many years of public servant time and energy defending the frivolous action inevitably filed by the loudmouth parents of the loudmouth kid, having been suspended for a couple of days for unfurling his banner at a quasi-school event.

I think Justice Thomas makes a very appealing point here. Isn't anybody else troubled by the resources we have had to devote to a two week suspension of a troublemaker who deliberately disrupted the Torch Relay with a stupid message--all "just to get on television"?

Where does the money come from that school districts have to spend on these cases? Right out of the educations of the good kids, that's where.

Tinker has outlived whatever usefulness it ever had.
6.25.2007 2:50pm
Erasmus_ (mail):
As an aside, has Thomas ever defended his view of Originalism? I'd be curious to know why he thinks Originalism is right and how that relates to the type of Originalism he defends. At the least, perhaps he has publicly commented that he agrees with some academic's view of Originalism, although, of course, there's not many academic defense of Originalism.
6.25.2007 2:50pm
Randy R. (mail):
Under what circumstances would a student have protected speech in which he 'promotes' illegal drug use? Are there any left? Or does this opinion state that as long as you are enroled as a student at a public school, you simply have no protected speech at all when it comes to any statements that say simply "People smoke pot".

And does this extent to the internet? Can principles sanction any student for statements made on the internet? Is there a distinction between statements posted on the internet while on school property vs. posted on a home computer? Should there be?

But I agree with another person -- Thomas is off. It isn't because students have too much free speech that our schools are a mess. It's because they take guns and knives to school.

But I wonder if students have 2nd amendment rights.....
6.25.2007 2:52pm
Randy R. (mail):
It's fun to keep thinking about this stuff -- someone stop me!

What if the banner said, "Torture all the Gitmos!" Is that advocating an illegal practice? Are we sure torture is still illegal in the US? Surely that would rob the majority of the claim that the banner is promoting illegal activity!

What if the banner said, "Torture all students who question authority!" Seemingly, the banner would then be supporting Thomas' concern about discipline in our schools, and he would be forced to support it, no?

What if the banner said, "Adhere to the rule of law!" Is advocating for the rule of law itself disruptive enough that it much be limited for students?

Oh, how boggled the mind gets!
6.25.2007 2:57pm
Kevin!:
This ruling could only be narrower if you turned it sideways while you read it.

Fraser deals with this case just fine. Fraser: School Assembly, a kid made a lot of sexually suggestive commentary. The Court ruled that it can be suppressed if reasonably offensive to others. In other words, it's a balancing test between students' 1st amendment rights (weak) and the right of other kids to be let alone from offensive/illegal conduct while they're in school + the school's interest in teaching (strong).

With Fraser's ruling in mind, it doesn't make any sense that you can ban sexual speech but not drug-advocating speech. The influence of drugs in school is far more severe then sex. Fraser should have made this clear, but Fraser is poorly written (as Roberts notes) and doesn't give a good standard for analysis. Among other things, drug use is REALLY against the law. Students can't even smoke cigarettes, for crying out loud. Even if you don't think that "Bong Hits for Jesus" was drug advocating, this ruling was really aimed at that kid wearing the "4/20" t-shirt with the leaf on it.

Of course there's a discernible difference between pro-drug legalization speech and pro-illegal activity speech. If anything, Morse makes clear that political advocacy is still reasonably well-protected by Tinker. Now, if you wear a t-shirt with a marijuana leaf and a "legalize it!" slogan you're in for an interesting Appellate Court battle, but that's about factual characterization... not the law.

The issue of whether or not the kid was on "school property" is not all that interesting constitutionally. He sort of was. Most importantly, the kids there probably thought they were in a School Event. There were cheerleaders, the school band, the Principal was walking around, etc. And their parents wouldn't have been happy if their kids were walking around during school hours in a legally-vague emancipated status.

Now, a SCARY ruling would've been what Thomas wanted. This just fills in the gaps of Fraser.
6.25.2007 2:59pm
Erasmus_ (mail):
Randy R is on to something. Were students allowed to take guns to school in the 18th Century? I bet they were! (Kidding -- I hope?)
6.25.2007 3:02pm
Kevin!:
As cute as everyone's hypotheticals are, this case just affirms the existing practice of thousands of school districts. They seem to deal with the bleeding edge between illegal activity and political advocacy pretty well. What made this case so surprising was that it seemed to overturn the drug policies of nearly every high school out there... and enforced penalties against the Principal! (!!)
6.25.2007 3:03pm
plunge (mail):
"It isn't because students have too much free speech that our schools are a mess. It's because they take guns and knives to school."

Boy are you wrong. It's because they aren't allowed to openly and concealed carry ENOUGH guns and knives to school to help keep the peace themselves.
6.25.2007 3:05pm
Bpbatista (mail):
Doesn't all of this hair splitting over what would or would not be acceptable banners high light the correctness of Thomas' position? If the correct constitutional ruling -- which prevailed at the time of the founding and for over 150 years aftward -- is that students don't have free speech rights in school, then none of that matters. Instead, we had ruling unmoored from the original meaning and understanding of the constitution which has resulted in this train-wreck of jurisprudence not to mention the havoc it has caused to the pratical matter of trying to educate children.
6.25.2007 3:12pm
Bpbatista (mail):
Doesn't all of this hair splitting over what would or would not be acceptable banners high light the correctness of Thomas' position? If the correct constitutional ruling — which prevailed at the time of the founding and for over 150 years aftward — is that students don't have free speech rights in school, then none of that matters. Instead, we had ruling unmoored from the original meaning and understanding of the constitution which has resulted in this train-wreck of jurisprudence not to mention the havoc it has caused to the pratical matter of trying to educate children.
6.25.2007 3:13pm
DeezRightWingNutz:
If a majority reaches, say a 6-3 decision on a case, say 3 on Constitutional grounds and 3 on statutory grounds, is the decision a binding precedent to interpret the Constitution or statute in a certain way?
6.25.2007 3:26pm
Random Lawyer:
How many more years of school teachers getting qualified immunity because the law is too muddy must we put up with? There needs to be a precise and consistent formula for determining whether or not schoolhouse speech is protected. The distinctions about the schools' sponsorship, imprimatur, and material disruption have blurred lines and courts are confused on whether those are separate or interlocking requirements. It seems to confuse the matter even more when the school can now discipline a student for off campus speech, suggesting now that students better be pretty careful about what they post on their MySpace profiles and blogs. There have been cases in which students' violent musings have led to suspensions, but now any student discussing fake ID's and beer runs (or heck, P2P sharing) on his blog runs the risk of suspension and losing a lawsuit. Certainly, the disciplining official will be entitled to qualified immunity for any diciplinary action taken under such circumstances.

If we want to have compulsory education laws, dealing with messy student speech is a consequence of that. When they privatize all the schools, then Thomas can be right.
6.25.2007 3:32pm
plunge (mail):
There was no system of public schooling at "the founding" as far as we know it today. Talking about anything prevailing at this time is nonsensical.
6.25.2007 3:34pm
Bpbatista (mail):
Plunge,

If, at the time of the founding, there was no public schooling as it exists today then it is the schools which must conform to the constitution, not the other way around.
6.25.2007 3:43pm
Kevin!:
Random Lawyer: Don't be silly about the Myspace stuff. The "school activity" bit comes squarely because they were still under the physical custody of the administration. So long as you agree that "school activities" are not ONLY those on school grounds (field trips) then this is a fairly restrictive standard for those off-campus activities.
6.25.2007 3:44pm
Randy R. (mail):
Plunge: "There was no system of public schooling at "the founding" as far as we know it today. Talking about anything prevailing at this time is nonsensical."

but that obviously didn't stop Thomas.

As for the 1915 case, I don't think there is a single parent anywhere in America that would agree that the school can discipline a student for taking administrators to task for providing an unsafe environment for learning.

As for Thomas' statement that too much free speech has led to disruption in the schools, I daresay it's been a loooooong time since he has set foot in a public school. Or for any Justice, for that matter, even having a child or grandchild in a public school.

What I do notice, throughout the majority opinion and certainly here, is a nostalgic belief that if we just get student's to shut up and stop questioning authority, we can return to the mythic 1950s, a time when there was no such thing as pre-marital sex, no one got pregnant, homos didn't exist, drugs were unknown, and the worst thing to happen to a student was to find out that strawberry was the only flavor of shake left at the drug store.
6.25.2007 3:48pm
John Herbison (mail):

If a majority reaches, say a 6-3 decision on a case, say 3 on Constitutional grounds and 3 on statutory grounds, is the decision a binding precedent to interpret the Constitution or statute in a certain way?


This hypothetical does not describe a majority; it describes two pluralities that agree on a result but differ as to the reasoning. As I understand Marks v. United States, 430 U.S. 188, 193 (1977), when a fragmented Court decides a case and no single rationale explaining the result enjoys the assent of five Justices, the holding of the Court may be viewed as that position taken by those Members who concurred in the judgments on the narrowest grounds.

In the hypothetical described above, the opinion with greatest precedential value would most likely be the one deciding the case on statutory grounds.
6.25.2007 3:49pm
Jersey McJones (mail) (www):
This incident did not occur on school grounds and therefore the ruling was narrowed down to a school event. What if an adult, with no association with the school held the sign? Could the principle grab it and pull it down? Can any "drug message" be banned from kids? Music? Movies?

This SCOTUS and the RATS are a joke. You cons who voted for Bush should be hanging your heads in shame.

JMJ
6.25.2007 3:49pm
Random Lawyer:
Kevin, the problem is that with the material disruption, school sponsorship, offensive-Fraser sppech, school event, and imprimatur standards, there is no student speech which will not be subject to censorship. Can you provide me an example of individual student speech that does not fall into one of those categories besides black armbands? There are some courts which invoke the Fraser standard on puerile speech in individual speech cases when the speech did not take place at assemblies or school sponsored events. If that can happen, then the logic of this case will be broadened to give school teachers the benefit of the doubt and at least qualified immunity. This area is a mess, and I had hoped they would sort it out. Hopefully, EV will take the case pro bono when a student is suspended for advocating civil disobedience on VC comments.
6.25.2007 3:55pm
Mark F. (mail):
Actually Thomas didn't go far enough in his dissent. The First Amendment does not apply to the states, not did the 14th Amendment apply the First Amendment to the states.
6.25.2007 4:02pm
Old 33:
The key seems to be that the School Board had a policy against drug use, and the "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" banner ran afoul of that policy because it promoted drug use.

It's content-based viewpoint discrimination. There is one official viewpoint in the school, and any speech to the contrary can and will be punished.

Put into a different context, if the school administration adopts a policy that demands respect and tolerance of gays and lesbians, and even goes so far as to sponsor a LGBT Pride day (or, as we've seen, signs onto the Day of Silence), can the school punish students who say that homosexual behavior is a sin?

There is an official school viewpoint. The majority today seems to suggest that the school has an interest in promoting its viewpoint and quashing dissent...to preserve order.

Horrible, horrible decision.
6.25.2007 4:03pm
chris c:
Thomas didn't say 'public school students didn't have 1st A rights at the Founding and thus have none today.' This is what he said -

"In my view, the history of public education suggests that the First Amendment, as originally understood, does not protect student speech in public schools. . . . If students in public schools were originally understood as having free-speech rights, one would have expected 19th-century public schools to have respected those rights and courts to have enforced them. They did not."

does anyone know how much this litigation cost that school district?
6.25.2007 4:32pm
Ben P (mail):

There is an official school viewpoint. The majority today seems to suggest that the school has an interest in promoting its viewpoint and quashing dissent...to preserve order.


that's more or less the holding from Bethel, the biggest stretch being that that was a mandatory school assembly while this was a field trip that students were excused from school to attend.

Other than that the biggest difference is that that was a sexual metaphor, and this was drug related. There's a slight stretch in saying it was drug related, but that's not quite as concerning.

Out of context, I agree with something that Thomas said in his concurrence.


I am afriad that our jurisprudence now says that students have a right to speak in schools, except when they don't.



Although I don't think it's a huge stretch to take bethel from sex to drugs, I think extending the circumstances from Bethel to this case potentially created a much broader rule than already existed, allowing administrators to potentialyl quash any speech that they find that is against the basic idea of order and discipline in schools.
6.25.2007 4:39pm
Guest44:
Back to the "school event" factual issue:

The event was not school-run nor school-sponsored. It was an event open to the public, that the school thought students ought to see: the Olympic torch passing through town.

This 18 year old man--a senior who did not attend school at all that day--appeared on the public street, not school property, and unfurled his banner.


The principal grabbed the banner and suspended him for 10 days.
6.25.2007 4:42pm
Stan C (mail):
Steve2,

I almost agree. Certainly there would be greater clarity moving in either direction, i.e., either by asserting that students had free speech rights in school identical to those of adult citizens in a public forum, or by asserting that the free speech rights of students in school were subordinate to local school district policies.

But I think that the post-Tinker elaborations were an almost inevitable result of crippling ambiguities in Tinker itself.

The beginning point of Justice Fortas's majority opinion was that "[i]t can hardly be argued that either students or teachers shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate." This begs the question; if it can't be argued that the speech rights of minor students in school are necessarily and rightly constrained in the service of education, then the majority opinion is foreordained.

Then, with a nod towards reality, Fortas acknowledges that local school districts may in fact infringe on the free speech rights of students, but only in cases where particular speech would "materially and substantially interfere with the requirements of appropriate discipline in the operation of the school." Thus, lower courts were instructed to divine what a majority of the Supreme Court might find "materially and substantially" detrimental to school discipline, on a case-by-case basis.

It's hardly surprising that in subsequent decisions the Court attempted to make sense of this muddle. But I agree with Justice Thomas that those attempts have failed.
6.25.2007 4:44pm
whit:
"It isn't because students have too much free speech that our schools are a mess. It's because they take guns and knives to school. "

rubbish. guns and knives aren't the problem. literally millions of kids routinely took guns and knives to school for decades without a problem. schools had rifle clubs, etc. and they did not ban kids wearing pocket knives, either.

spare me the silly propaganda please.
6.25.2007 5:19pm
K Parker (mail):
Erasmus_,

Sorry, but the answer is, yes students were allowed to bring firearms to school. But wait--it gets worse: this was true not only in the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries, but there are still places in the US where it's done today as we speak.

Sorry if that disturbs your sleep tonight...
6.25.2007 5:22pm
K Parker (mail):
Whit,

You're shouldn't use the past tense; while school rifle teams are far rarer today than at one time, some do still exist. Furthermore, states laws in at least some places (like mine) allow bringing firearms on campus for a myriad of purposes, including both shooting teams/clubs and for things like hunter safety education.
6.25.2007 5:25pm
Elliot123 (mail):
The clever student will simply preface his message by some political advocacy. For example, "Repeal Marijuana Laws -Support Bong Hits For Jesus."
6.25.2007 5:26pm
whit:
parker, you are correct.

it is true that far MORE kids used to routinely take guns/knives to campuses in the past than they do now.

it is not the case that this still is not the case at SOME schools.

my bad
6.25.2007 5:27pm
M. Simon (mail) (www):
Schools should be considered temporary prisons. Everybody gets a 13 year sentence. Time off for bad behavior.

Look at the parallels:

Prison food - school food
Wardens - principals
No free speech - no free speech
Trustees - hall monitors
6.25.2007 5:28pm
Laura S. (www):
Carolina and others get this opinion dead wrong.

The court went out of its way to indicate that
1) this was a school function.
2) the banner was intended to be disruptive--that the student by his own admission intended no message.
3) that the principal determined that the message was in fact disruptive.
4) that the principal's determination was reasonable because the banner contradicted school policy.

None of #1-#4 express what restraints or discipline the school could have imposed if, for instance, the student had published an op-ed favoring the repeal of drug-free school zones.
6.25.2007 5:29pm
whit:
to me the issue is this - was it a school event?

it appears not

thus, the school should have ZERO say in what banner the kid unfurled.

if and when school admin's decide to take kids outside the cozy, politically correct campus into the REAL WORLD, they should expect to see viewpoints that may not be in line with the "official" campus policy.

and since the kid wasn't attending school that day, and this event was in public - i think the school should have no jurisdiction.

it seems that simple to me.

on campus? of course. off campus, nonevent - no
6.25.2007 5:30pm
Mark Field (mail):

"In my view, the history of public education suggests that the First Amendment, as originally understood, does not protect student speech in public schools. . . . If students in public schools were originally understood as having free-speech rights, one would have expected 19th-century public schools to have respected those rights and courts to have enforced them. They did not."


This is a remarkably obtuse statement. The 1st A didn't apply to the states in the 19th C.
6.25.2007 5:35pm
M. Simon (mail) (www):
People have no idea how bad drugs are.

Calling attention to them by public ridicule of the Drug War will not be tolerated in America.

In Canada telling the truth about drugs will get you thrown out of school.

Do you see what these drugs are doing? By their very nature they destroy free speech. All is not lost. I have a fix. We declare all discussion of the Drug War and why people take drugs illegal except for professionals licensed or authorized by the state. Fortunately the state has access to enforcers for just such problems.

When only the truth is allowed everyone will be able to speak freely.
6.25.2007 5:41pm
Erasmus_ (mail):
K Parker, if you have citations to law reviews/books/etc. discussing guns in schools in the 19th century, I'd appreciate it if you could pass them along.
6.25.2007 5:58pm
Phutatorius (www):
One wonders if Justice Thomas will show the same deference for schools when the Court rules on the voluntary desegregation plans. His "once upon a time schools were about teaching discipline and citizenship, and not indulging the 'rights' of students" homily, while nice and curmudgeonly, will ring rather hollow when he votes against plans designed to teach tolerance and character by integrating students of other races.

But who knows? Maybe he'll surprise us. (right)

It seems a bit absurd to play the originalim card in a First Amendment case. The eighteenth-century norms that, in Justice Thomas's mind, should determine of our twenty-first-century rights brought us the Sedition Act, after all -- while pressings of the First Amendment were still hot.

Would it adequately dispose of this originalist nonsense if we put together a movement to re-ratify the Bill of Rights, exactly as it's currently written? That way we could at least "update" these examinations of social norms to the date of most recent ratification.
6.25.2007 6:18pm
jimbino (mail):
When the revolution comes to the USSA, the students, so long deprived of their rights, will be in the forefront, standing in front of the tanks. Godspeed!
6.25.2007 6:19pm
Ramza:
This was not a school event. It was a public event that the school attended.

The principle didn't have the authority to stop the banner. Yes the kid skipped school, he should have been suspended for skipping school, not for unfurling the banner.

But due to the Principle acting out side his authority we have this stupid court case that further murks up the waters of tinker, due to the school district standing by their man, the principle, when he made a stupid decision and overstep his bounds. How many thousand-millions of dollars were wasted?
6.25.2007 6:36pm
Justin (mail):
Mark Field,

To read Thomas's statement in the most charitable light, I would think most states had free speech clauses. That's a more complex point, of course, and is open to a variety of criticisms itself, but it's not an implausible interpretation.
6.25.2007 6:42pm
Ubu Walker (mail):
@Phutatorius
I think the time has come to rewrite the entire constitution. As a society, we all need to come to a consensus on the rules of the game. Having the Supreme Court interpret vague constitutional commands just doesn't do it for me anymore. Most people want to know what the law is: Do children have the same rights as adults? Can students say things which might upset their teacher? Should abortions be legal? Etc. These issues can be addressed constitutionally, like most other modern democracies.
6.25.2007 6:48pm
CLS (mail) (www):
I have trouble buying this was a school event. The Olympic torch passing by was not organized by the school. The school did allow students to leave their classrooms to witness it but the plaintiff was not in school that day. And while the majority of students were with a teacher he was not. And the students assembled on one side of the street while the plaintiff was on the opposite of the street. In addition as a senior I believe he would have been old enough to legally not attend school that day if he wished. And he didn't attend school that day.

The court seems to be saying that because students at a school event could see the banner across the street from what the school organized that made the banner under school control.

Since the plaintiff was not at the event proper and was on public property not school property then exactly how far away must he be before his First Amendment rights kick in? Had he been two blocks away would it be legal? Is it legal if he shows the banner a mile away but some students have binoculars?

As I see it the plaintiff was not required by law to be in school and was not in school that day. He was on a public sidewalk, not on school property, and not under the jurisdiction of the school or chaperoned by a teacher. He was merely visible to students who were attending the event. Do we really want the school to have jurisdiction over all speech rights of students off campus as well as on?

This entire "school event" issue is a smokescreen. The plaintiff was across the street from the school event. This sort of expanded definition of "school event" is something that has ramifications that may not bode well for the schools. And since the student was not in school when he exhibited his sign and legally allowed to skip school he ought to have the full First Amendment rights that we all do. No doubt by some of the Justice's reasoning he did have all the rights the rest of do and that isn't very many.

Thomas argument seems to be that rights are determined by what was respected in the past and not by the actual wording of the constitution. What a can of worms that opens up.

By the way the argument that student intended no message and the argument that he could be suspended because of his message seem contradictory.
6.25.2007 7:04pm
Ben P (mail):
I don't think the above is entirely accurate.

The way I understood the facts, is although the student in question had not attended school that day. The School had granted students permission to attend the parade rather than attending class. At the parade the (truant) student in question, was standing in the company of other students who were not truant, who were at the parade.

Just in the interest's of playing devils advocate. How is it relevant that student was truant on that particular day? Are we to assume the principal should have called in to check whether or not he had shown up that morning to homeroom before checking out to attend the parade?

She saw him with the other students, and made the assumption that he was part of the group of students attending the event.

One might as well ask if the holding in Bethel would have been different had the student in question shown up late to school that day, and not attended class prior to giving the student president candidacy speech.
6.25.2007 7:31pm
nickjuneau24 (mail):
There seem to be two lines of disagreement with this case. One is the issues surrounding what was said. To that discussion, I have nothing to add.

Two is the issue surrounding where it was said. This could be further split into (a) was it at a school event, and (b) what was the physical location?

Regarding the physical location of the sign. A school's interests do not end at the school boundary. The Court alluded to this by noting that "[t]here is some uncertainty at the outer boundaries as to when courts should apply school-speech precedents, but not on these facts." The Court cites a case (Porter v. Ascension Parish School Bd., 393 F.3d 608, 615, n. 22 (CA5 2004)) that finds a student's poster was not school-speech, in part because the sign was not directed at the school. If that was the test the Court used (Was the speech directed at the school?), then the physical location of the sign is not an issue.

There is a good photo of the sign at wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Bh4j.jpg. That picture would have been taken from well-inside the school's boundaries. The banner was aimed directly at the school, satisfying the test the Court alluded to.

This seems like a good approach. Then, the concerns over (a) whether or not this event was a school event, or (b) whether the school can enforce regulations against students all over town -- are sidestepped. Only speech that is "directed at the school" can be considered under the line of "school-speech" cases.

As an anecdote, I went to JDHS (unfortunately I graduated a few years before the events in this case), and can contribute a minor fact to the discussion of the location of the sign. JDHS has no "on-campus" parking. Most students parallel park on the road in front of the school. The location of the banner was next to a car on this road. Thus, the banner was in the de-facto parking lot for the school. The Court probably could have considered this when discussing the location of the sign, but may have wanted a broader holding (something like the "directed at the school" test) that reflected the school's interests without getting bogged down in a discussion of property boundaries.
6.25.2007 7:44pm
Laura S. (www):
Even if you believe that the court was wrong to hold that this event was school sponsored. They did hold that, and did so clearly as a criteria for upholding the action of the principal.

This means that this decision is rather less important and dramatic than it otherwise might be. To recap: op-eds in the town newspaper are still OKAY. Banners at school functions are still subject to oversight by the principal and the determination of whether something is a school function does not hinge upon how public of an event the school is attending.

This seems pretty minimal and avoids the possibly chaotic effect of ruling that this was not an event over which the school had jurisdiction.

e.g., I'd be concerned about chilling effects of _further_ discouraging principals from allowing students to attend a historic event such as this.
6.25.2007 7:57pm
Random Lawyer:
I stand by my points above, but in the end, it just seems silly that the student pressed it and the school pressed it and the U.S. Supreme Court now has a reported opinion with the phrase "Bong Hits for Jesus." I mean, gee whiz.
6.25.2007 8:30pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
Mark Field,

To read Thomas's statement in the most charitable light, I would think most states had free speech clauses. That's a more complex point, of course, and is open to a variety of criticisms itself, but it's not an implausible interpretation.
That's not so much reading it in the most charitable light as actually reading it. You don't need to "interpret" Thomas's statement to come to that conclusion; he explicitly stated that in the opinion.

Sheesh. I wouldn't think it would be that controversial among attorneys to note that it's actually helpful to read the opinions before criticizing the justices for writing them. It's his very first footnote.
6.25.2007 8:32pm
Mark Field (mail):

To read Thomas's statement in the most charitable light, I would think most states had free speech clauses. That's a more complex point, of course, and is open to a variety of criticisms itself, but it's not an implausible interpretation.


Fair enough; maybe even charitable to me in DMN's view. But Thomas's view leaves out a great deal:

1. There were no high schools in America until 1821. As a practical matter, very few students attended them until after the Civil War. I think there are substantial grounds for doubt that the practices of 30-110 years after the fact would be probative of the intent in 1791 (however Thomas chooses to interpret that) regarding an institution which didn't exist at that time.

2. Assuming most states had free speech clauses, he'd at least have to show similar wording and interpretation of them as compared to the original understanding (as he sees it) of the 1st A. That would require a state by state analysis of 19th C decisions.

3. How does Thomas know that the rights were not enforced in some way? He has no way of knowing this. At best, he can say he didn't find any court opinions. This isn't very persuasive since (a) many opinions went unreported in the 19th C; and (b) the rights might have been either widely recognized or violated but enforced by private action (very common in the 19th C).

4. The age of adulthood in the 19th C was 21. I suspect (but don't know; neither does Thomas) that very few high school students were 21 in those days. The student's age seems to me a very relevant factor here.
6.25.2007 8:58pm
Carolina:
Laura S:

Carolina and others get this opinion dead wrong.

The court went out of its way to indicate that
1) this was a school function.
2) the banner was intended to be disruptive--that the student by his own admission intended no message.
3) that the principal determined that the message was in fact disruptive.
4) that the principal's determination was reasonable because the banner contradicted school policy.


Laura S - have you read the decision? The majority explicitly states that the Tinker "disruption" analysis DOES NOT apply to every school speech case ("Whatever approach Fraser employed, it certainly did not conduct the “substantial disruption” analysis prescribed by Tinker"), and the court DID NOT apply that analysis in this case.

This is how the Court explained its conclusion:


When Frederick suddenly and unexpectedly
unfurled his banner, Morse had to decide to act —or not
act —on the spot. It was reasonable for her to conclude
that the banner promoted illegal drug
use— in violation of established school policy— and that failing to act would send a powerful message to the students in her charge,
including Frederick, about how serious the school was
about the dangers of illegal drug use
. The First Amendment does not require schools to tolerate at school events student expression that contributes to those dangers.


Note that the analysis makes no mention of the principal deciding the message was "disruptive" - it quite specifically states the speech is unprotected because it supported illegal drug use. I don't know the Court could be any plainer.
6.25.2007 9:00pm
ReaderY:
Alito's concurrence, which I read to be controlling, includes a robust defence of Tinker and goes out of its way to emphasize that Tinker isn't being narrowed very far beyond the specific facts of this case. It's pretty close in substance to Breyer's view, suggesting that in this area the Court is neither strongly conservative nor strongly polarized. It has a functioning center reflecting widespread agreement, on this issue, that basically favors keeping things as they were in the Warren era with only slight adjustments at the edges.
6.25.2007 9:37pm
whackjobbbb:

There is an official school viewpoint. The majority today seems to suggest that the school has an interest in promoting its viewpoint and quashing dissent...to preserve order.


Pretty much. It's the principal's school to run, and he's running it. And the people will get rid of him if they don't accept his methods, and rather prefer an increased emphasis on "Bong Hits for Jesus".

The kid can go unfurl his banner on his own time, somewhere else. There are many places you can't unfurl your banner and express "speech"... and school just happens to be one of those places (I hope). Try unfurling your banner at your workplace... or try at your next sporting event... you might find yourself fired or thrown to the curb.

Breyer hit it on the nose, pretty much telling the court to BUTT OUT of this. That's always good advice for a lawyer, advice they don't wanna hear perhaps, but good advice all the same.
6.25.2007 10:06pm
Guest44:
whackjobbbb - how about unfurling the banner on a public street at a public event, when you're not at school? (that's what happened in this case)
6.25.2007 11:30pm
Toby:

This was not a school event. It was a public event that the school attended

In the 60's and early 70's, in the blue state of Massachusetts, those of us who were not into conventional sports would camp and climb cliffs, and learn how to find wild food. Just as Football jocks today wear those torn off t-shirts shat just protect them from the pads, those of us who participated in this "non-sport" wanted to wear totems of our athleticism to class. We wore our sheth knives, blades etwen 5 and 7 inches long to class on our belts every day.

It may astonish the febrile to learn that no one was killed by this outright posession of weapons on a campus.
6.25.2007 11:31pm
TruePath (mail) (www):
This was the worst decision by the supreme court in recent memory. Now I thought the facts made it pretty clear that the student should have provided on the 1st amendment issue (less clear about qualified immunity) but the decision could have been reasonable instead of absolutely discraceful if it had been decided a different way.

The justices could have held that, like the prior case about the lewd speech by a student, that the sign wasn't expressing a message and was simply disruptive clowning around. They could have agreed it expressed a message but felt that the format was too disruptive. It would even have been better if they had just decided that student speech only gains protection on a matter of public concern and this wasn't one. Heck, it would have been better had the justices just gone with Thomas view and overturned Tinker (right case?). Instead the justices specifically ruled that the banner did express substantial content (advocated drug use) and then ruled it lacked first amendment protection because of the idea expressed.

This undermines the central premise of free speech, the government doesn't get to restrict views based on their content! Sure it's sometimes hard to draw the line between expressing the content that it is morally obligatory to kill someone and exhorting people to murder but the principle that no idea should be punished only the basis of it's content should be inviolate.

The argument about the need for schools to maintain discipline might have been a good one if the justices hadn't made it clear that the content of the banner was pivotal. If you can ban speech just because the idea is dangerous you have no free speech at all. That's been the excuse of every despotic regime in history. The discipline argument only works if the supposed harms are a result of the form of the speech not the content.

This decision all but explicitly says that the boundaries of free speech are determined by the badness of the idea being expressed. Yet the very value of free speech is as a bulwark against the, potentially misguided, idea that some kinds of ideas are too dangerous to be heard. Free speech for acceptable views is no free speech at all.
6.26.2007 1:34am
KingOfMyCastle:
If we didn't have government run schools, we wouldn't have to waste time on 1st amendment cases from students running through the court system all the way to the supreme court.

Just saying...
6.26.2007 3:32am
KingOfMyCastle:
Expounding on my previous post...

The only reason the Supreme Court had this silly discussion is because the school system is run by the government.

There are no 1st amendment protections for students going to a private school. If these protections are vital to the students learning process, wouldn't we see some negative impact on all of the unlucky private school kids?

Thomas was right. There was no consideration for free speech protections for children. Probably because there was no government run school system when the constitution was drafted.

I certainly don't remember any talk of free speech in the school when I was young. It's just another silly construct foisted on the public during that strange period when hippies ruled the world.
6.26.2007 3:55am
David M. Nieporent (www):
I'm with TruePath on this one. This reads like the Drug Exception to the First Amendment decision. Different justices used different rationales, so we can't generalize, but if you add up the votes, I think it's clear that if the banner says "Just say no," it comes out entirely differently.

The court ignores the content-neutral "disruption" standard of Tinker and instead turns that into a viewpoint-based test. I'm not sure that the Ninth Circuit's (vacated) gay t-shirt decision isn't right, given this decision. Apparently disagreeing with school orthodoxy is grounds for punishment. If the Des Moines School District had decided that it was official district policy to promote war, then they could have punished Tinker.
6.26.2007 6:44am
Jan (mail):
IMO, the Frederick ruling is a miscarriage of justice. The high school let students out early so they could watch the parade or not. Attendance was not mandatory and many students went home instead. Frederick had not gone to school that day, but did show up for the very much public event. He was not on school property or on school time. He was 18, so I doubt if in loco parentis would even apply off campus. Nevertheless, the principal took it upon herself to destroy his silly banner and suspend him from school. How could what he did possibly be either grounds for school discipline (unless he skipped school) or a crime? Maybe I'm missing something...
6.27.2007 2:40am