Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Speaking principles to the principal 

What happens when the Right decides to fight Lefty signage (or t-shirts) with some of their own in a high school? Bryan Henderson at Princeton High in West Virginia does so and teaches a number of people a lesson in free speech rights.
At the end of the day, my fellow PW chapter members and I felt it was time to fight back and strike at the public education indoctrination machine that seemed to be running out of control. Our school desperately needed some ideological balance, so we decided that the next day we would up the ante and place 500 signs in the halls of the school.

I got to a quick start the next morning ...and just when we posted about 200 of our 500 signs, we heard a rustling around the corner. Upon investigating the noise, we found a fellow student tearing the signs from the wall and ripping them into shreds. We made no attempt to stop her, but she quickly abandoned her pursuit when I removed my camera from my backpack. Apparently, her being conscious of her own hypocrisy was not enough to prevent her from forcibly suppressing our dissenting point-of-view. But facing the prospect that others might be made aware of her hypocrisy, and it's cut-and-run.
That's just a teaser; the remainder is a sad commentary on how many administrators who knew what the right thing was, didn't do it out of fear of safety (or job security), of teachers who abused their power and the students they had indoctrinated, and one very troubling parent. His description of his conversation with his principal is a model of decorum and intelletual debate.
The next day I sat across the table from the principal. Our scheduled meeting had begun. He had reviewed the documentation I had provided to him from the ACLU website, but he still wasn't sure if my rights extended to posters. We talked about it for about half an hour and he really seemed to be coming around.

He stated that signs unaffiliated with the school would not be allowed to be posted. Anticipating this line of reasoning, I produced for him pictures I had taken the day before of many signs not affiliated with the school posted all over the walls. Included among them a picture of a movie poster for "Alamo", with which I asked him if the school was affiliated with Touchstone Pictures?

We talked it over for a little while longer until he agreed with my interpretation of Tinker vs. Des Moines. He said that if he decided not to let me tack posters to the wall I would definitely be allowed to hand them out as leaflets.
I think we should have a new motto for kids speaking out like this: Give a Tinker's dam to liberals!

I think Mr. Henderson will be a good local leader for Students for Academic Freedom when he arrives at college next year. At minimum, he should receive some of their "red books" along with a couple hundred of Cato's pocket Constitutions. (Mine is on my Palm.)

(Hat tip: Captain Ed.)