Monday, June 25, 2007

Bong Hits 4 Jesus

As I walked by the Supreme Court building today, in absolute awe of what takes place there, I asked an NBC film crew what ruling they were expecting. That’s when I learned that the “Bong Hits 4 Jesus” case out of Alaska, Morse v. Frederick, had been decided—in favor of the school.

I agree with this ruling. As I write this, I don’t know anything about the decision other than the outcome. I don’t know what arguments swayed the Court, or what the ruling said.

Some might ask how I can support Kieran King but not Joseph Frederick. The answer is simple: reasonable time place, and manner restrictions on exercising speech have always been allowed—the “can’t yell ‘fire!’ in a crowded theater” standard. Kieran’s personal expression in school is acceptable, Joseph’s expression at a school function is not.

It’s not Joseph’s message to which I object. I’m not quite sure what “Bong hits 4 Jesus” means, if anything. It’s silly, even sophomoric, but he’s entitled to it. He’s not entitled to express it at a school function, any more than my students are entitled to express their personal beliefs in my class while I’m teaching. Reasonable time, place, and manner restrictions.

Want to show a goofy, drug-referencing sign in public? Don’t do it at a school activity.

Update: Justice Thomas has a very interesting study of student expression in his 13-page concurring opinion found here starting on page 19 of 60. It's well-written and easy to understand. I agree with him up to a point, and truly enjoy his history of student 1st Amendment cases, but I find much to approve of in Tinker--a decision he claims outright is "without basis in the Constitution".


Greg said...

Gotta disagree with you, my friend.

Darren said...

What, you disagree without calling names and bringing up completely unrelated issues? You must now be a liberal!

Tony said...

I preemptively agreed with you on this one, Darren.

Mike said...

There is really nothing new here, at least, certainly nothing that will cause any rational school administrator to change their behavior. The rule was and remains that kids have limits in schools and as long as administrators use common sense in enforcing those limits, the Supreme Court is going to accord them significant latitude.

Of course, principals upset because elementary age boys have little green plastic toy soldiers on their mortarboards are another issue...