Thursday, June 14, 2007

Suspended For Voicing An Opinion?

I'm the first to point out that students, like adults, don't have unlimited First Amendment rights. In fact, courts have always ruled that there can be reasonable time, place, and manner restrictions placed on speech--the "can't yell 'fire' in a crowded theater" standard, as it were. And children, in school, have even fewer first amendment rights than I do on a street corner, or on my blog, or on a soapbox.

But when a student can be suspended for voicing an opinion that the school administration doesn't like, that's interesting. And it happened in Canada. Or did it?

Like me, this student doesn't smoke pot. Like me, he doesn't think it's any worse than alcohol. Like me, he probably supports its legalization.

This story turns, however, on whether or not the student sold marijuana. I notice he didn't deny it, but instead said he's never smoked it. I hope more information will be forthcoming.

Kieran King's views on marijuana have led to his suspension from Wawota Parkland School.

King said he was threatened with police action by Principal Susan Wilson previously after making the case that marijuana was less harmful than alcohol.

"In my opinion, cannabis is safer than they say, it is not worse than alcohol or tobacco," said King, a 15-year-old Grade 10 student.

Wilson accused King of using and selling marijuana at school, according to a media release issued by the Saskatchewan Marijuana Party. King has offered to submit to a voluntary drug test to prove otherwise.

"I've never smoked marijuana. I've never even seen it," said King.

The story doesn't say what punishment he received for using and selling. The title of the story suggests he was suspended merely for voicing an opinion, but the story itself says he was suspended for participating in a "free speech" walkout over this controversy. Yes, he was threatened with police action for his opinion, but what actual punishment occurred for voicing his opinion? This reporting is very sketchy, but the consequences of his suspension are not.

The three-day suspension will prevent King from writing his final exams before he goes to China on a correspondence course. He's to leave Thursday.

The honour student said he will still pass Grade 10 because his marks are in the 80s and 90s. By missing his final exams he will lose 30 per cent of his marks.

That's just petty. That principal is on a power trip. I wonder if he'll really submit to the drug test to prove he didn't smoke pot at school. Of course, there's no real way to prove he didn't sell it, though, because you can't prove a negative.

Update, 6/23/07: Instapundit (see blogroll at left) links to the following comments from Colby Cash:

What fascinates me about the case of Kieran King, the Saskatchewan high school student who was threatened, punished and slandered by various officials over the past three weeks for talking with some pals about the health effects of marijuana, is that it explodes almost every single utopian cliche about public schools that has been ever propounded by their employees and admirers. It's almost glorious, in a way. Ever heard an educator say "We're not here to teach students what to think -- we're here to teach them how to think"? BLAMMO! "We encourage children to make learning a lifelong process." KAPOW! Poor Kieran didn't even make it to age 16 before someone called the cops.

"Diversity is one of our most cherished values." But express a factually true opinion that diverges from what you've been taught and -- WHOOMP! "Public schools aren't crude instruments of social control, they're places where we lay the foundation for an informed citizenry." BOOM!

I could go on, but I'm running out of sound effects and I really don't have time to fire up an old Batman episode on You-Tube to gather more.


Mike said...

Let us not forget that in Canada, there is no such thing as the First Amendment, and despite being a democracy, the government can, and does, exercise prior restraint on speech, and can and does punish speech it does not like. One more good reason to give prodigious thanks that you are an American.

Anonymous said...

Section 2(b) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms is the equivalent of the American First Amendment.

And if you want to talk free, in Canada mandatory drug tests and drug dog sweeps for students are not the status quo... yet.

Thankfully, dumbasss administrators will bring attention to the issue and make people think twice about adopting invasive tactics - tactics which AMERICAN SCHOOLS ALREADY ARE SUBJECT TO.

So who really is more free?

Anonymous said...

Watch this video of a school official explaining her actions:

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

Darren said...

1st Anonymous, while what you've described is legal in the United States, it's not what I'd call "status quo". At least, they're not regular occurrences.

You sound like you're in a snit, though, because why--because someone suggested something negative about Canada? Come on. Do we really need to play "I'm freer than you are"?

Mike said...

Dear Anonymous (or might that be Dear Does Not Really Exist? Dear Overly Shy?): Hmm. Granted, I haven't spent a great deal of time reading the foundational documents of nations whose heritage comes from the English experience, but I do know with a reasonable degree of certainty that no nation has, in intent or application the degree of freedom in speech enjoyed by Americans. Even the Soviet Union's constitution promised individual freedoms beyond--on paper--those enumerated and implied in the Bill of Rights, but we know how that worked out, didn't we?

I'm not, of course, likening Canada to the Soviet Union, just making the point that what we're will- ing to put into writing and what we do are not always the same thing. What's going on in the case about which we write would seem to indicate that whatever the Canadian "equivalent," as you put it, of the First Amendement says, the practice is decidedly different.

Jo Ann Euler, Kieran's mother said...

This is Kieran's mom. Kieran is a major researcher. Earlier in the year, there was a presentation on drugs. Kieran stated that none of the stats given were cited and little clear factual information was given. Kieran began to research marijuana inside out when he found some stats given were not accurate. He loves to share and debate what he learns- we listen to it on a daily basis at home. He was sharing what he had learned at school. He does comparisons between alcohol, cigarettes, and marijuana- comparing, for example, how addictive each is, how damaging to the body, and how each affects the health care system. Kieran was accused of promoting marijuana. When talking to the principal about Kieran needing to write his exams early, as he was leaving for China,I was told that if Kieran had talked in a positive way about marijuana to a grade 9 student and if he talked to any any Grade 9s again about marijuana, the police would be called. I told them that Kieran was a full-time research and he loved to share. No one listened but I asked Kieran to not talk to Grade 9's. Kieran, unknown to me, made contacts and the school received a call from Senator Lorne Campbell's office promoting free discussion on the effects of drugs. The school called me and I was asked to squash Kieran's push for freedom of speech. Again it was repeated that Kieran was not allowed to talk to grade 9's. Kieran organized the walkout. A lock down was planned to stop anyone from leaving, but Kieran and his brother walked out anyway. Kieran was suspended for organizing a protest against administration and defying the order to stay in. Lucas for defying the order to stay in the school. The issues are freedom of speech and fair assessment (as Kieran was not allowed to write his scheduled finals and will receive 0 out of 30%.) There may be another issue as well if the director"The youth and his mother had been warned previously that school officials didn't think it was appropriate for him to promote drug use at the school, Rempel said"..."Condoning drug use in a school setting is inappropriate. The freedom of speech issue is really a mischaracterization of what occurred here," Rempel said." Mr. Remple is so wrong when he says this to the Canadian Press, that I could scream. I am sorry, but I am sick of this slander from the school division. Kieran did not promote drug use- he researched and shared facts and compared statistics. It is a crime that the director keeps saying that Kieran was promoting drug use.

Kieran does not drink, smoke cigarettes or marijuana, or take any other drugs. He is an honor student and good kid who believes in research, stating the facts, and freedom of speech, and fairness to others.

Darren said...

Ms. Euler, thank you for adding further information here. As you can tell from the way I wrote my post, the shoddy news article from which I extracted information leaves much to the imagination about your son's actions.

Not being allowed to make up his exams, though? That's petty, vindictive, and unprofessional.

Mike said...

Dear Mrs. Euler:

Make no mistake, I love my Canadian friends, and am glad Canada is our norther neighbor, but this sort of thing prompts me to wonder if you and your son wouldn't be better off in an American school, and should give pause to those who equate all evil in the world to American public education.

Thanks for setting things straight.

Darren said...

OK, I've finally gotten around to watching the YouTube links. Granted, they're posted by the Saskatchewan Marijuana Party, but they're not putting words into the mouth of the person who's ostensibly speaking for the school.