Word is now getting around that the Supreme Court made the wrong decision regarding sudent free speech rights, when, this morning, they decided against a student who had sued his high school for suspending him over displaying a farcical banner reading “Bong Hits 4 Jesus”. Evidently even the hint that a student might be promoting drug use, even when the display is quite obviously a stupid joke, is enough that a principal can justifiably trample over that student’s expression.
“It was reasonable for (the principal) to conclude that the banner promoted illegal drug use and that failing to act would send a powerful message to the students in her charge,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the court’s majority.
Please. “Reasonable”? Only if you have two feet of a broom handle lodged up your colon. That the banner is an admittedly juvenile and stupid expression of humor ought to be obvious. There’s not even any context for the statement. To take it seriously prompts the question: is “Bong Hits 4 Jesus” advocating behavior to be enjoyed on general principles, or is it advertising a school club? No, it was just a teenager writing something dorky that other teenagers would find amusing on a banner, just to get a reaction. That may be immature, but should it be a forbidden form of expression?
One ought to be wary of slippery slope fallacies, but I can see this opening the door to other restrictions on student speech simply based on someone even thinking there may be the possibility that a student has just said something promoting an illegal act. Over the years there have been many attempts to ban certain books from school libraries, ban certain clubs (yes, I do happen to think those “pray around the flagpole” groups have a right to do their thing, as long as it isn’t sponsored by the school, and they only meet before or after school hours), and what have you. This decision will more than likely lead to more and more students having to watch what they say for fear of Big Brother. What kind of lesson is that to teach budding young citizens of a “free” country?