Thursday, April 07, 2005

Tinker vs. Des Moines Problem?

Tim Bueler is the President of the Rancho Cotate High School Conservative Club, just south of Santa Rosa. He's rather famous locally for his protest against a "liberal bias" in the classroom that brought the national media to Rancho Cotate (he was Bill O'Reilly's show and was featured by Rush Limbaugh and Michael Savage).

Yesterday, the Conservative Club protested against the Gay/Straight Alliance by demonstrating across the street of the school. I'm not here to promote or demote the demonstration. It is that clubs right to protest.

What I'm more interested in is the Constitutional problem that occurred Wednesday morning. Here is an excerpt from the Santa Rosa Press Democrat:

Some demonstrators carried signs and wore sweat shirts that said "Homosexuality is sin," and had the universal symbol for "no" - a circle and slash - around and through the word "gay." School administrators confiscated similar sweat shirts from students who wore the messages on campus Wednesday morning.

That brought an angry reply from Bueler, who said it was a violation of free speech for the school to take the shirts, which he said were provided by, a Placer- ville-based group.

School Principal Mitchell Carter said the sweat shirts violated a school policy about messages on clothing "that represent bigotry and target particular protected classes" of students.

Hmmmmmmm. Regardless of your feelings towards the protest, is the school's rule Constitutional? The Supreme Court stated,
"in our system, undifferentiated fear or apprehension of disturbance is not enough to overcome the right to freedom of expression"

I'm not one to scream about 1st Amendment violations everytime a student is disciplined for opening their mouths. However, this is one of those interesting cases were unpopular opinions may be dictating the school's administration. If you read the Tinker case, and review recent federal cases involving student expression, I think you might see that these actions might not have been warranted. In most cases, the litmus test is whether the expression incites violence or causes a massive disturbance in the educational process. More often than not, federal judges are ruling in favor of the students.

Leave me some comments and let the discussion role!
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