hairylunch (hairylunch) wrote,

Interesting court decision

I wrote about the Day of Truth a little over a year ago. I didn't realize that there had been a lawsuit over the students (or probably their parents) who thought that in protest to the Day of Silence that they would wear shirts that said "Be ashamed - our school has embraced what God has condemned."

As stated previously, I didn't think the student should be suspended, and that his speech should be protected under the First Amendment. Apparently the courts disagree with me:
In a 2-1 decision, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals said that a T-shirt that proclaimed "Be ashamed, our school embraced what God has condemned" on the front and "Homosexuality is shameful" on the back was "injurious to gay and lesbian students and interfered with their right to learn." Wearing such a T-shirt can be barred on a public high school campus without violating the 1st Amendment, the court said.
This ruling is similar to Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeir in that it limits the First Amendment rights of secondary school students.

This isn't as far reaching as Hazelwood in that it's only a Circuit Court. I'm torn because I understand the courts rationale that the shirt was "injurious to gay and lesbian students and interfered with their right to learn." In fact, when I was in high school, there were students who wore "I hate preps" shirts, and were asked to remove them. Even then I thought this was silly, though the shirts did almost lead to a fight between one of the guys wearing the shirt (arguably a "scrub") and one of the "preps/jocks," which was clearly disrupting the learning environment. And while I don't condone messages of hate, "In numerous instances, the U.S. Supreme Court has held that Americans must tolerate offensive speech, including permitting marches by Nazis through a community with a substantial Jewish population."

The crux of the decision seems to be that creating a safe learning environment is more important than the First Amendment (with regards to teenagers). I guess overall, I support the decision as it gives school administrators some latitude in creating the best environment for students to learn in, but the libertarian in me is offended to see the erosion of rights. This seems particularly important considering most students don't even know their First Amendment rights . . .
Tags: court, first ammendment, free speech, high school

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