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ERIC Number: EJ759597
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2007-Mar-9
Pages: 3
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: N/A
ISSN: ISSN-0277-4232
Rights at Stake in Free-Speech Case
Walsh, Mark
Education Week, v26 n27 p1, 28-29 Mar 2007
Despite the less-than-weighty incident at its core--the display of a homemade banner emblazoned with "Bong Hits 4 Jesus"--a case that the U.S. Supreme Court will take up carries potentially far-reaching consequences for student speech, and for the legal protections of public school educators. From a sea of controversies over student speech--on T-shirts, in classroom assignments, on Web pages, and in other forms that have conveyed political, religious, or arguably violent or offensive messages--the justices have chosen to review the case of an Alaska senior at Juneau-Douglas High School who was disciplined for exhibiting the banner at an Olympic-torch relay outside the school in January 2002. It was a fleeting statement that its creator describes as lacking in any particular meaning other than to provoke. Upset by the banner's reference to drug paraphernalia, Ms. Morse asked Mr. Frederick and the others to drop the banner, according to court papers. When Mr. Frederick refused, he was suspended by the principal for 10 days, an action upheld by administrators and the school board of the 5,000-student district. After Mr. Frederick sued over the suspension, a federal district court sided with the principal and the district. But a federal appeals court held that Mr. Frederick's banner was protected speech under the Supreme Court's landmark 1969 decision in Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District, which ruled in favor of students who wore black armbands to protest the Vietnam War. The three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, in San Francisco, also held unanimously that the principal was not entitled to immunity from the student's lawsuit because her actions violated Mr. Frederick's rights under clearly settled law on student speech. That part of the 9th Circuit ruling has alarmed school groups, which contend that applying conflicting legal rulings on student expression is far from easy on a day-to-day basis.
Editorial Projects in Education. 6935 Arlington Road Suite 100, Bethesda, MD 20814-5233. Tel: 800-346-1834; Tel: 301-280-3100; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: Elementary Secondary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: Alaska