Some people think that if you are a high school student, you are a second-class citizen not afforded the inalienable right of free speech granted to you by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
Today’s papers report that Joseph Frederick, a senior at Juneau Douglas High School in 2002, was suspended from school for ten days because he held a banner across the street from the school during a 2002 Olympic torch relay that read “BONG HITS FOR JESUS.” He was actually suspended five days for the banner incident and another five days for “invoking free speech rights and quoting Thomas Jefferson to school officials about the suspension.” (link)
Principal Deborah Morse claims she was exercising her duty to enforce rules of conduct when she confiscated the nonsensical banner from Frederick and suspended him from school. Frederick filed suit challenging the suspension. He lost in Federal Court, but the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in his favor.
That didn’t stop Morse from taking her case to the Supreme Court for a ruling on how far the school can go to enforce its drug-message policy.
Do you want to know who filed on behalf of the Juneau school district? Of course you do. It’s none other than the monomaniacal Kenneth Starr. He took the case pro bono. He should lose this case, but who knows what else he’ll uncover about Frederick during his “investigation.” He’s probably subpoenaed all of Frederick’s freinds, teachers, employers, ex-girlfriends, etc. in an effort to come up with something personal about him so he can write another book that ends up having nothing to do with the case.
Eric Hagen, one of the attorney’s in Starr’s office said, “It makes it a little harder when teachers and principals in their daily duties might be subject to a damages lawsuit and be held personally liable.”
Since when is it an educator’s daily duty to restrict a student’s right to free speech off of school grounds? I’d say never.
Note to Deborah Morse: If you want to avoid getting sued for violating rights granted to every American in the First Amendment, don’t violate their rights.
The Supreme Court is expected to hear this case in late February.