Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Bong Hits.....4 The Man

I had been following the "Bong Hits For Jesus" controversy, if you can call it that. I enjoy seeing Fascist tendencies unveiled. In fact, I have to admit to being a little obsessed. The complexities of the political coalitions....very interesting. (Check here, particularly "What would Jesus smoke?"). Anyway, it is pretty wonderful.

But, John Lott sends a nice lagniappe via email. You can find the entire case here....but the money quote, from Judge Andrew Kleinfeld, is this:

All sorts of missions are undermined by legitimate and protected speech -- a school's anti-gun mission would be undermined by a student passing around copies of John R. Lott's book,'More Guns, Less Crime;' a school's anti-alcohol mission would be undermined by a student e-mailing links to a medical study showing less heart disease among moderate drinkers than teetotalers; and a school’s traffic safety mission would be undermined by a student circulating copies of articles showing that traffic cameras and automatic ticketing systems for cars that run red lights increase accidents.

"Mission" is something good people have, don't you know. Don't go undermining it, just because you love to jabber about speech, assembly, petition, and perhaps even thinking the "mission" is a crock of old cheese. It is not enough to obey Big Brother; you have to love, really LOVE him.

The banner was not on school grounds, and the kids were released from school. The teacher made the kid a hero. Why not just laugh and shake your head? Of all the things that kids could be doing...

UPDATE: The first paragraph of the decision is delightful, for those of us who have teenage boys....

One January day, Coca-Cola and other private sponsors supported a “Winter Olympics Torch Relay” in Juneau, Alaska. Students were released from school so that they could
2464 FREDERICK v. MORSE watch the Olympic torch pass by. Joseph Frederick, then an
18-year-old senior at Juneau-Douglas High School, never made it to school that morning because he got stuck in the snow in his driveway, but he made it to the sidewalk, across from the school, where the torch would pass by. He and some
friends waited until the television cameras would catch it, then unfurled a banner reading “Bong Hits 4 Jesus.” Deborah Morse, the school principal, crossed the street, grabbed and crumpled up the banner, and suspended Frederick for ten
days. He appealed the suspension administratively, but it was sustained. He then filed a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action in the Federal District Court seeking declaratory and other relief.

"Never made it to school...but he made it to the sidewalk." Yes, indeed. My older son can't find his own bum with both hands, though he is way smarter than I ever was, or will be. Navigational skills, "what time is it?" skills, those he has trouble with.

Of course, it turns out that the student not going to school is germane, or possibly so, for the decision. What if the kid had gone to school, been released to go to the school parking lot, on school grounds, and had had that same poster? The principal could have taken it, then. The school can regulate such displays on school grounds, particularly when school is in session and during a school activity. But none of those things were true. As the decision says (and this made me chuckle, also):

This is no case of ignorance. The law was clear, and Morse was aware of it. The law of this circuit has provided explicit directives such that officials may
determine which Supreme Court standards govern which types of potential student behavior. No novel question is posed on the basis urged by defendants—that “Bong Hits 4 Jesus” promoted a view contrary to government policy—because the armbands in Tinker raised the same concerns. The law of Tinker, Fraser, Kuhlmeier, Burch, and McMinnville is so clear and well-settled that no reasonable government official
could have believed the censorship and punishment of Frederick’s speech to be lawful.62 In fact, there is nothing in the authorities that justifies what the school did, and no reasonable official could conclude otherwise. Morse fails the
third prong of the Saucier test.

(For Morse's reaction, or my speculation on that reaction, repeat this to yourself, using your best Homer Simpson voice: "STUPID third prong of the Saucier test!")


Anonymous said...

Hey Mike,

That's interesting. It resembles a recent case here in Toronto where a high school kid posted disparaging remarks his Vice Principal and some teachers on his facebook website. He aksi invited other kids to post comments on that site, which of course the kids did by adding more insults.

The school's principal got wind of it and suspended the kid. The kid responded by "protesting" with a number of fellow supportive (aka, let's skip school!) students, arguing that it was an invasion of privacy rights...

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