Monday, June 25, 2007

Do students have the right to advocate illegal acts? 

It would appear not.
The Supreme Court tightened limits on student speech today, ruling against a high school student and his 14-foot-long �Bong Hits 4 Jesus� banner.

Schools can prohibit student expression that can be interpreted as advocating drug use, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the court.

...�The message on Frederick�s banner is cryptic,� Roberts said. �But Principal Morse thought the banner would be interpreted by those viewing it as promoting illegal drug use, and that interpretation is plainly a reasonable one.�

"We hold that schools may take steps to safeguard those entrusted to their care from speech that can reasonably be regarded as encouraging illegal drug use," Justice Roberts wrote. "We conclude that the school officials in this case did not violate the First Amendment by confiscating the pro-drug banner." (Also from an AP report on the WSJ website, subcribers only.)

My only reservation in the Court's decision is this notion that public school students are "entrusted to the(ir) care" of the school's administration. Truancy laws lead to a duty to attend school. When one is compelled to attend, can we really then attribute to the parents and administration some contract that involves a trust? While I have in the past advocated for a return to in loco parentis in universities, even public ones have to sell themselves to students and their parents. High schools do not have this requirement.