Protecting The Right To Dissent

Protecting The Right To Dissent
Posted by CN Staff on March 23, 2006 at 08:11:48 PT
By Douglas Mertz
Source: Juneau Empire
Alaska -- The U.S. Court of Appeals recently ruled that the principal of Juneau-Douglas High School violated Joseph Frederick's free speech rights when she punished him for holding a banner just outside school property reading "Bong Hits 4 Jesus." Most people seem to agree that the principal went too far, but a few still have doubts. Why can't a school official discipline a student for a sign that could be taken as advocating drug use? It's a fair question.
The main point in the decision was not about the particular words on the banner. Frederick testified that the words were nonsense, intended to be funny. But the principal thought they conveyed a pro-drug message, contrary to the school's strong policy discouraging student drug use. According to the court, that raises a basic question: Can a public official, which is what a public school principal is under the law, punish a citizen because the citizen expresses a message the official believes is contrary to official policy? Does a citizen who is also a student have the right to express a contrary message, either on school grounds or, as in this case, off school grounds?The Court of Appeals answered that question with clarity: Students, like the rest of us, have the right to express thoughts contrary to the official opinion of government officials. The First Amendment wouldn't be worth much if it only protected speech with which officials agreed. There are restrictions on student free speech: Students can be punished for speech that presents an immediate threat of substantial disruption of classroom education or that disrupts a school assembly or that is obscene or plainly offensive. The court made clear that speech is not "plainly offensive" simply because it disagrees with official policy. And the school admitted that the banner display did not disrupt the educational process.Does this ruling tie the school's hands in its anti-drug policy? By no means. The school retains the right to teach against drug use, to employ drug counselors and to punish drug use on campus. The school is right to do so and it should continue. The only restriction is that the school cannot punish a student who says he believes the contrary, unless the student does it in a way that actually disrupts the classroom educational process.The Court of Appeals used a good example: What if, instead of holding a banner, students had handed out copies of a Supreme Court decision upholding the right to use marijuana in the privacy of a person's home? Could a student be punished for simply handing out a Supreme Court decision? If the First Amendment means anything, it means we cannot be punished for stating our opinions and for dissenting from official policy. Can a student or even a teacher be punished for engaging in a debate on legalization of marijuana, or on the effectiveness of different strategies for dealing with drug problems? We all have the right to debate controversial issues without fear of government punishment. That is the right that was at stake in the Frederick case. It is a right we should all defend, as the Court of Appeals did in its decision.• Douglas Mertz is a Juneau attorney who represented Joseph Frederick in his litigation against the Juneau School District. Source: Juneau Empire (AK)Author: Douglas MertzPublished: March 23, 2006 Copyright: 2006 Southeastern Newspaper CorpWebsite: letterstotheeditor juneauempire.comRelated Articles:Banner Suit Filed in Court Canned: Free Speech Rights at Issue 
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Comment #8 posted by jose melendez on March 25, 2006 at 18:33:18 PT
evil, schmievel
"Am I the evil genius in the corner . . . ?"
Why vaporize? It's food, stupid.
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Comment #7 posted by whig on March 25, 2006 at 18:22:11 PT
Exhibit A, the Banality of Evil.
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Comment #6 posted by jose melendez on March 25, 2006 at 18:17:51 PT
dissent from THIS
know history . . .
 . . . or repeat:
Whistleblower starts with 'W' and sings like a canary.
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Comment #5 posted by whig on March 25, 2006 at 16:00:11 PT
Electioneering in AZ
No person is allowed to remain inside the 75-foot limit while the polls are open except for the purpose of voting, or working at the polls. The only exception is for Kids Voting, youth in the booth, and necessary activities by the property owner. No news media, exit polling, or checkers are allowed within the 75-foot limit. In addition, electioneering is prohibited within 75 feet of the polls from 6 am to 7 pm on election day. No campaign related signs, buttons, literature, shirts, bumper stickers, advertisements, endorsements or written materials may be located nor be visible or audible to voters as they enter the 75 foot limit, as designated by the election board. If a voter is handed campaign material outside the 75-foot limit as they enter the polls they are to be advised to secure the item from view while in the polling place.
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Comment #4 posted by b4daylight on March 25, 2006 at 15:46:04 PT
there is no electioneering within 75 feet of voting in AZ._squash_
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Comment #3 posted by ekim on March 23, 2006 at 20:26:02 PT
Dennis Kucinich and surprise celebrity guests 
i wish that Angel and vote Nall Y'all would be there. i wish that Neil and Willie would to.and what the hey --Dennis has been so compassionate and displays such courage in talking about Peace 
 how about Tuck and Tooker00 and Jose thaken a peace pipe from the good people of for all the Hope and Love Dennis has given so many people.
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Comment #2 posted by dongenero on March 23, 2006 at 11:40:27 PT
FARC kingpins
What did we spend to indict these kingpins? About $1,000,000,000 each?They still allegedly raised $25,000,000,000 for "terrorism". 
Whatever that may be these days. (just about anything the govt. wants it to be)
Guess we were a little late. Plus our independent contractors needed to let the deals go through so they could get their cut of the action. Here's an idea. End the Drug War as we know it and nip that $25,000,000,000 terror funding in the bud.
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Comment #1 posted by ekim on March 23, 2006 at 09:42:52 PT
35 years and tomany tears
35th Annual  Ann Arbor HASH BASHApril 1st, 2006
DIAG -------------------------------------------------------------Kucinich Announces Exciting 2006 Re-Election Campaign Event
Meet Congressman Dennis Kucinich and surprise celebrity guests at his 2006 "Re-elect Dennis Fun-Raiser" to be held at Cleveland's I-X Indoor Amusement Park on Sunday 23rd April. will run from 3:30 pm to 7:30 pm with a 5:00 pm program. Advanced ticket donations are $100 for adults. Children under 14 will be admitted for $20 at the gate. Tickets include festivities, indoor amusement park admission and free parking. You may purchase your tickets in advance through our on-line store. If you prefer to order by mail, download our order form for this event. You can also call (216) 252-9000. If you need them, we have directions to the I-X Center for you here.-----------------------------------------------------------------
Thursday, March 23, 2006
Sentence first, trial later (custody pending)Well this the laugh of the day. Blaring headline: 50 Colombia rebels indicted on drug trafficking - U.S. alleges FARC members sold $25 billion of cocaine to finance terrorism. Wow doesn't that sound big? Fifty FARC narco-terrorist kingpins indicted. “The FARC’s fingerprint is on most of the cocaine sold in America’s neighborhoods,” DEA chief Karen Tandy said at a news conference to discuss the charges. [...]---with no taxes being paid on 25 billion------
 hear a Leap Speaker.
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