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Mar 06 2013

ACLU Defends Right to Wear Anti-Gay Shirts

Bravo to the ACLU for coming to the defense of a student in Connecticut who was told he could not wear an anti-gay t-shirt to school. The shirt was simply a rainbow with the universal symbol of the circle with a line through it over the top. Here’s the more disturbing part of the story:

Groody was originally threatened with suspension for wearing the shirt, but when the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) threatened to sue the school for infringing on the student’s constitutional right to free speech, Wolcott High School backed down. The school decided this month to allow Groody to wear the shirt as he pleases.

Groody is now not only permitted to wear the anti-gay t-shirt, but has reported to selling 12 of the shirts to fellow students.

He has a constitutional right to wear that shirt, and so do those who bought them. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t bigoted or that they get to escape criticism for it. And the fact that 12 other students want to wear them says something disturbing about the culture in that community. But the ACLU has it exactly right:

Sandra Staub, legal director of the ACLU in Connecticut, told AP in an interview that the ACLU disagrees ‘very strongly’ with Groody’s anti-gay position, but he should be allowed to express his opinion freely.

Yep. The fact that his opinion is bigoted and deserves criticism does not mean the government should censor that message.

101 comments

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  1. 1
    Bronze Dog

    I expect there will be Freeze Peach wingnuts who will complain that the ACLU ‘very strongly disagreeing’ with his position constitutes silencing, thus maintaining their anti-ACLU narrative.

    …Nah. More likely, they’ll just assume the ACLU fought against the kid’s rights the moment they see the name.

  2. 2
    Greg

    Voltaire would be proud.

  3. 3
    Gregory in Seattle

    I’m not sure about this. Speaking as a gay man who was bullied in high school, the shirt edges uncomfortably close to the kind of harassment that is rightfully NOT protected speech.

  4. 4
    Red-Green in Blue

    The ACLU, in defending this student’s right to wear the anti-gay T-shirt, has enabled him to demonstrate his bigotry in public. This tarnishes the image of Christians and turns many people who need God’s love and forgiveness away from the faith. Therefore the ACLU is advancing the cause of atheism.

    Why does the ACLU hate Christians so much???

    /snark

  5. 5
    Gretchen

    You’re right, Gregory, that it’s not as clear a distinction as we’d like to pretend. Harassing other students in school is indeed not free speech, and I’m not going to declare that the content of a t-shirt can’t be harassment. If a group of students all came to school one day wearing t-shirts that say “We hate Jennifer,” then that sure sounds like harassment of Jennifer and shouldn’t be allowed. If one student came to school wearing a shirt that says “I hate Jennifer,” and it can reasonably be construed as directed toward another student, that also sounds like harassment which shouldn’t be allowed.

    When it’s negative statements about an entire group, however, it gets muddier. Should a student be able to wear a shirt saying “Jocks are stupid”? How about “Girls are stupid?” How about “Black people are stupid”? Or “I hate” any of the above? A shirt with a line crossing out a rainbow isn’t as direct as just saying “I hate gay people,” but it’s certainly implied via symbolism.

    It seems like the clearer and more personal the message of negativity toward people who actually attend the school and are likely to see the t-shirt, the clearer the case can be that the shirt constitutes harassment. But I sure don’t know where to draw the line there…..nor do I know where the law does.

    Do you, Ed?

  6. 6
    Synfandel

    I’m going to get dumped on for this, but I don’t entirely agree with Ed or with the ACLU.

    A public school has a responsibility to its staff and students to provide a safe teaching and learning environment that is free of abuse and intimidation. It’s not a park or a public square. I believe that a school should have the right to place reasonable limits on speech and other forms of communication within its walls when they are necessary to the proper functioning of the school or to the well-being of the people in it.

    This doesn’t mean that one should not be able to say anything that the school disagrees with. The case has to be made that a particular act of speech is potentially harmful to others in the school or is detrimental to the educational function of the school. I can see the anti-gay T-shirt falling within those parameters.

  7. 7
    Bronze Dog

    I’m a bit more ambivalent since Gregory brings up the bullying aspect, and I know bullying isn’t just a physical thing. I faced some psychological bullying as a kid for being a nerd, and my (then undiagnosed) Asperger’s was probably a factor, too. I was eventually able to shrug it off, but I’d imagine gay kids receive orders of magnitude worse harassment than I ever did, and even worse, such harassment is more often sanctioned by adults.

    So now I’m wondering, what would the response be if the shirt was explicitly racist or sexist? What’s a typical school precedent for that?

  8. 8
    MKandefer

    When the speech leads to LGBT children feeling less accepted and increasing their risk of suicide, is it worth protecting? I don’t think one shirt in a district that seems to care about the well-being of LGBT students will be a problem, but if most of the student body were wearing shirts like this I’d be concerned for the mental health of the LGBT students in that school.

  9. 9
    Marcus Ranum

    He has a constitutional right to wear that shirt, and so do those who bought them. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t bigoted or that they get to escape criticism for it

    I wonder if a teacher would get in trouble for asking him to stand at the front of the class so everyone could see the shirt, then asking him to explain why homosexuality is wrong and defend his position?

  10. 10
    Modusoperandi

    A foe wearing a t-shirt with a crossed out rainbows on it is fighting only himself, and losing.” ~ Sun Tzu (The Art of War II: Electric Boogaloo)

  11. 11
    Marcus Ranum

    Voltaire would be proud.

    Voltaire would be disgusted. It’s been hundreds of years and look how little progress has been made in spite of the great enlightenment thinkers clearly marking the path for us with glow-sticks and little waving flags and a mariachi band.

  12. 12
    shrunk

    I agree with Synfadel, and others who express ambivalence over this decision. The ACLU’s mandate is to defend free speech, so they are just doing their job here. But I’m not sure how likely they would be to prevail if this went to trial. The SCOTUS decision in Morse v. Frederick gave schools considerable latitude to override students’ free speech rights in the interest of promoting a school’s educational mandate or protecting student safety. If a sign saying “Bong Hits 4 Jesus” can be legally censored because it is felt to be promoting illegal drug use, then I think this t-shirt can also be censored because it constitutes harassment and hatred against other students.

    The usual thought experiment applies: If the shirt instead portrayed a Star of David with a red slash thru it, would the school have no right to ban it? I don’t think so.

  13. 13
    erichoug

    Hmmm, this one is proving a conundrum for me. On the one hand, I am a free speech extremist. I don’t believe that words are crimes. Hell, I don’t even like it being illegal to threaten the life of the president. I feel that any time you ban speech you give that speech power far beyond the actual words. So, I completely disagree with Gregory in that I don’t believe that anyone gets to decide what I can say or express but me.

    But, as the child of an education family, I also agree with Gregory. But only in the school. My dad worked in high schools for years and he would send home any child whose appearance or dress was likely to disrupt the learning environment. I know he sent home several girls for having pink hair and would regularly make kids remove piercings. The point was that you are there to learn. You are there to study the material presented and anything that distracts or disrupts that should be left outside the door.

    So yeah, conundrum.

  14. 14
    John Pieret

    Synfandel @ 6:

    The case has to be made that a particular act of speech is potentially harmful to others in the school or is detrimental to the educational function of the school. I can see the anti-gay T-shirt falling within those parameters.

    This was exactly the “justification” that several schools have given to ban pro-Gay rights T shirts and things like the Day of Silence. If it “disruptive” to offend the sensibilities of gays, then it is just as disruptive to offend the sensibilities of those who find gays unacceptable. The government cannot and should not be in the business of deciding whether the feelings of gays or anti-gays are more important, if for no other reason, there are a lot of places in this country where the anti-gay messages would not just be allowed but enshrined.

    The schools can ban certain clothing (gang colors are a good example) but unless there is a realistic possibility that the simple fact of wearing a T shirt might lead to violent confrontation, wearing your opinions on a piece of clothing is protected speech.

    The schools can do other things, like holding classes on inclusion of and respect for all students and having well thought out programs against bullying.

  15. 15
    anubisprime

    If the bigoted dumb and pompous homophobic SOB’s want to point to themselves and say…’I am a bigoted dumb and pompous homophobic SOB’ ….then let them at least we will know who they are for sure!

    Point and laugh…it is the only way open and incessant derision.

  16. 16
    sundoga

    Clear as a bell from where I’m sitting. The right to communicate, clearly, what you think and believe is outside of anyone else’s area of control. You can counter the argument, deride and mock, make your opposition clear in the strongest terms…but you may not censor.

  17. 17
    Gvlgeologist, FCD

    The proper way to handle this situation is criticism, not banning. It’d be nice if other schoolkids would don Tshirts with a pro-gay student message (or an anti-anti-gay message – maybe the anti gay symbol inside yet another circle with a slash?). The problem of course is that many students need to do this so that gay students and their supporters are not singled out for bullying. But then, I’m an idealist.

  18. 18
    Synfandel

    The schools can ban certain clothing (gang colors are a good example) but unless there is a realistic possibility that the simple fact of wearing a T shirt might lead to violent confrontation, wearing your opinions on a piece of clothing is protected speech.

    Why is violent confrontation the standard? What about quiet emotional damage and interference with other students’ learning? I repeat that this is not a park or public square; it’s a school. I see phrase “the government should not…” coming up. We’re not talking about the government making a blanket rule that no one may express a particular opinion. We’re talking about a school trying to keep its students safe and get on with teaching.

    The schools can do other things, like holding classes on inclusion of and respect for all students and having well thought out programs against bullying.

    Yes, they can and should do those things, but there’s no need to passively watch the bullying in the meantime. They can and should intervene.

  19. 19
    slc1

    There are laws against what is known as creating a hostile work environment. It would seem that the shirt in question has the potential for creating a hostile work environment and hence may be censored. Suppose, for instance, that the student in question was wearing the shirt in the classroom of an out of the closet gay teacher? I don’t think that the issue is as cut and dried as Mr. Brayton contends.

  20. 20
    eric

    Gretchen:

    It seems like the clearer and more personal the message of negativity toward people who actually attend the school and are likely to see the t-shirt, the clearer the case can be that the shirt constitutes harassment. But I sure don’t know where to draw the line there…..nor do I know where the law does.

    I think you’ve got the right principle. The reason this isn’t considered harassment or bullying is because nobody is mentioned by name, its not a call for any action, and while the red circle with a line through it is obviously a sign for “no” or “I disapprove of,” I don’t think it always or in normal use implies hate. A no smoking sign doesn’t imply hate, and it uses the same symbol. The message here might be intended as harassment, but it could also simply be expression of a bigoted position. When such a message can (reasonably) have two meanings, one protected and one not, I think the courts are generally going to rule its protected speech.

    To the folks uncomfortable with what this might mean for dogwhistle messages, I think the thing to remember here is that the court can (and probably should) try to discern motive before ruling. If, for example, they found an email from the seller saying “I want my shirts to become a dogwhistle for the intimidation of gays, hopefully no liberals will pick up on it.” then the courts would be well within their rights to ban it as bullying, harassing, etc. When such a message can have two meanings, and its clear from the record that the speaker means the unprotected meaning, then I see no problem with banning it. Well, no problem beyond the obvious that it’s often difficult to discern motive. This also means that it may be possible to change the status later: if the shirt becomes a clear dogwhistle for harassing or beating up gays, then maybe the court could revisit the issue.

    Editorial aside, shit like this is one of the reasons I think uniforms or dress codes in HS’s are perfectly reasonable. If the administration doesn’t want kids using the ‘open forum of clothing choice’ to say things they find offensive, the obvious and legal response is to limit the forum.

  21. 21
    John Pieret

    Synfandel @18

    Why is violent confrontation the standard?

    It isn’t … it’s just the most obvious one. It would take more than a blog comment to set out the subtleties of 1st Amendment law vis-a-vis public schools. Schools are not as open as public parks but neither can the state ban all rights of the students (especially at high school level) to express their opinions on social or political issues.

    We’re talking about a school trying to keep its students safe

    From what? … the knowledge that some people are going to dislike or even hate them because of their skin color, their gender or their sexual orientation? That’s not protecting them, it’s keeping them ignorant of the way the world is. Protecting them is to make sure they are physically safe and can come and go in school free from being physically assaulted or bullied. The school itself should make it clear to the students that their skin color, their gender or their sexual orientation makes no difference to how the school and its employees will treat them.

    We’re not talking about the government making a blanket rule that no one may express a particular opinion.

    In effect, you are making a blanket rule that that no student may express an opinion on social or political issues at school. Every such opinion offends somebody. Short of a total ban, the government school would have to make a list of when it’s ok to offend and when not to … and that is not a good thing.

  22. 22
    cjcolucci

    I predict that we’ll see more schools adopt school uniforms just to avoid these issues. Not to say that plaid skirts and knee socks don’t send a message of sorts — but maybe I shouldn’t go there.

  23. 23
    tuxedocartman

    The ACLU is off on this one, Ed is off on this one, and anyone defending this as “protected speech” aught to be ashamed of yourselves.

    I would almost… ALMOST… defend a student’s right to wear a shirt that says, “I believe homosexuality is a choice.” Anything more than that is directly attacking other students for their own lifestyles or choices, and in an institution where a child is forced to attend that is harassment and bullying.

    As for the circle-slash symbol over cigarettes meaning a person doesn’t hate cigarettes… please. Put a cross or Star of David or picture of MLK under such a mark, and tell me again that message isn’t one of hate towards Christians or Jews or black people. And given the unacceptably high rate of bullying and suicide amongst homosexual teens, I’m willing to trample the First Amendment a little bit in this case, even if it means other teens can’t express their dislike of light refracted through rain clouds.

  24. 24
    iknklast

    erichoug @13 – I agree in part with what you say, because disruption is a problem. But consider a few examples. In my high school (back in the dark ages of the 1970s, when disco was king), a student got sent home from my typing class for wearing a shirt that said “Where the hell is Edmond?” (Edmond being the name of the self-important, new rich town in which we were living). Is that protected? Is it disruptive? I saw no disruption. There was a giggle or two, but class started on time and proceeed normally until the teacher discovered the shirt, called attention to it, shamed the student in front of the class, and sent her home.

    By the same token, should I have the right to send home students who wear the following t-shirt message? “All knees will bow – bow now or bow later”. I consider that statement open hostility toward not only me but the 15% of our students who are not Christian, and the other 5% who are not fundamentalist (yes, the college where I teach is a frightening proportion). It meets all the criteria for hate speech as described above; it singles out a group (non-Christians) for condemnation, and it is very blatantly in your face about it. But I hope no one here would argue that this shirt constituted an offense for which the student could be punished.

    Yes, it is a gray area. Yes, homosexuals are bullied, and that is horrifying. But so are Jews and non-believers, who were targeted by this shirt. The first shirt, Where the hell – is an easy call. No one is hurt, no one is targeted, and Edmond is a town full of rich oil men, doctors, and lawyers, so no one could probably be hurt by the shirt except the excessively delicate teacher who felt the word Hell on a t-shirt was a punishable offense. The others are much more gray, but it still becomes a problem when you try to draw the line. Where is the line drawn? And does that line preclude me from wearing, in the presence of Creationists, the shirt that says Creationists see no science, hear no science, speak no science? I’m afraid, in the end, it would.

  25. 25
    Gretchen

    Eric said:

    The reason this isn’t considered harassment or bullying is because nobody is mentioned by name, its not a call for any action, and while the red circle with a line through it is obviously a sign for “no” or “I disapprove of,” I don’t think it always or in normal use implies hate. A no smoking sign doesn’t imply hate, and it uses the same symbol.

    How about a Mexican flag with a “no” sign over it?

    How about a symbol for “female” (the circle with the cross under it) with a “no” sign over it?

    How about an outline of the continent of Africa with a “no” over it?

    Smoking is an activity. Being Mexican/African/female/gay is an identity. I see a big distinction there.

    The message here might be intended as harassment, but it could also simply be expression of a bigoted position.

    I see, for practical purposes, no distinction here. Expressing a bigoted position in the captive presence of people who are the objects of that bigotry is almost certainly going to make them feel harassed.

  26. 26
    eric

    Anything more than that is directly attacking other students for their own lifestyles or choices

    So if I wear a shirt with a picture of the President and the same red circle-and-line over it, this is directly attacking students who voted for Obama? That seems a reaching definition of ‘directly attack.”

    I think what you’re doing here is assuming a dog-whistle message behind the shirt. You could be right, it could be serving as a dog-whistle for harassment. That’s perfectly within the realm of reasonable possibility. But it can also reasonably be interpreted as a statement of (bigoted) ideology with no implied indimidation. In such a case (two possible meanings, one of which is protected), I think the courts are right to err on the side of the 1st amendment and say its protected unless you can show evidence that the harassing message was the one that was intended.

  27. 27
    Gretchen

    Also,

    Editorial aside, shit like this is one of the reasons I think uniforms or dress codes in HS’s are perfectly reasonable. If the administration doesn’t want kids using the ‘open forum of clothing choice’ to say things they find offensive, the obvious and legal response is to limit the forum.

    This has always seemed incredibly lazy and unfair to me. Some kids are expressing messages we don’t like, so let’s take away that form of expression from all of them?

  28. 28
    Pierce R. Butler

    Who is Groody to criticize Yahweh’s post-deluge covenant with the Noah family?

  29. 29
    John Pieret

    For discussion’s sake, let’s take another example. In a civics class touching on Connecticut’s recent passage of same-sex marriage, a kid stands up and says that homosexuality is a sin and gay marriage destroys traditional marriage. A big discussion follows where some kids are on both sides and things get heated. Should the student be suspended?

    If not, why not? Because it is somehow “sanctioned” by the school because it is in class? Wouldn’t such a sanction make it even worse?

    Freedom to express an opinion (without anything else in the way of intimidation) is what the 1st Amendment is about and students do not entirely lose that right when they cross the schoolhouse threshold.

  30. 30
    Gretchen

    In a civics class touching on Connecticut’s recent passage of same-sex marriage, a kid stands up and says that homosexuality is a sin and gay marriage destroys traditional marriage. A big discussion follows where some kids are on both sides and things get heated. Should the student be suspended?

    Suspended? No. Told that his/her views on what isn’t and isn’t sin are not appropriate discussion for a civics class? Yes, I’d say so.

  31. 31
    eric

    Gretchen:

    This [dress codes] has always seemed incredibly lazy and unfair to me. Some kids are expressing messages we don’t like, so let’s take away that form of expression from all of them?

    Better than sending the message that its perfectly okay to only take away that form of expression from kids whose message we don’t like.

    I can see an argument for calling uniform codes cowardly. Those administrations are stifling expression to prevent nasty expression. But IMO they are far more fair than telling the religious conservative kids they can’t wear shirts objecting to liberal values, while telling the liberal kids its perfectly okay to wear shirts objecting to the religious conservative kids’ opinions. Responding to that by saying ‘how about nobody wears such shirts’ is, basically, going right back to supporting a uniform.

  32. 32
    sivivolk

    @eric

    I think Gretchen is making a point, though, that there’s a difference between a shirt that criticizes someone’s opinions (your second group), and a group singling out someone’s identity (your first group). You’re suggesting that the anti-gay shirts represent a religious conservative’s opinion against a liberal value, but what they represent is a statement against GLBT peoples’ existence.

    I think there is a substantial difference between criticizing an idea and attacking someone’s identity.

    As with a number of people above, I wonder how this squares with standard workplace harassment rules. Such shirts could clearly be banned, and likely would, from most professional workplaces. I understand that schools aren’t exactly the same, since attendance is mandatory, and they are run by the government.

    But I also think the definition of bullying used by a number of commentators is too restrictive. An anti-gay shirt, when you’re the only/one of very few openly gay student(s) in the school is as good as a personally harassing shirt, regardless of what the wearer might protest.

  33. 33
    Gretchen

    Eric said:

    Better than sending the message that its perfectly okay to only take away that form of expression from kids whose message we don’t like.

    Expressing dislike and/or negativity toward other students because of their race, nation of origin, sexual orientation, gender, etc. ! = “messages we don’t like.”

    But IMO they are far more fair than telling the religious conservative kids they can’t wear shirts objecting to liberal values, while telling the liberal kids its perfectly okay to wear shirts objecting to the religious conservative kids’ opinions.

    It’s not a matter of simple difference of political opinion, for heaven’s sake. Nobody’s saying you can’t wear a t-shirt denying global warming if you bloody well want to. They’re saying you shouldn’t wear a shirt that says other kids suck because of who they are.

  34. 34
    jameshanley

    The ACLU is off on this one, Ed is off on this one, and anyone defending this as “protected speech” aught to be ashamed of yourselves.

    Defending free speech is shameful? Go to hell.

  35. 35
    Nathair

    Defending free speech is shameful? Go to hell.

    Defending bullying and aggression in public schools in the name of free speech? Yeah, be ashamed.

  36. 36
    John Horstman

    Huh. Schools are most definitely NOT public fora, as attendance is compulsory for most minors, so they allow for greater restriction of speech than, say, the sidewalk outside of the school. I think I agree with those saying the schools responsibility to protect the gay students who are compelled to be there from harassment and bullying is more important than protecting free speech rights, especially in a case where members of a privileged group are promoting a message that perpetuates the marginalization of a marginalized group. I’d likewise object to a shirt promoting rape apologism or with a big circle and line over the word “Blacks”. It’s not like students who are being harassed or harmed by the speech in question simply have the option to leave, as with an actual public forum.

  37. 37
    Gretchen

    Defending bullying and aggression in public schools in the name of free speech? Yeah, be ashamed.

    Hang on, hang on. Nobody is defending bullying in the name of free speech. It’s the other way around– people who defend free speech sometimes, as a consequence, must defend what is viewed as bullying. I don’t think a single person here likes the t-shirt in question or supports wearing it.

    In actual public fora, you have a right to express yourself in all sorts of ways that constitute bullying. In public schools, you do not. The free speech of students is constrained so as to maintain a civil environment so that they can learn communally– including learning communally that bullying is wrong. Ideally, what this means is that speech which is constrained is that of the bullies, and not of others which bullies use as a justification for attack so that the fault for any “disruption” is placed firmly on the aggressors and not on the victims.

    So that means that the question here is not whether bullying in public schools is permissible on grounds of free speech, but whether the shirt in question constitutes bullying. I don’t think it does, but I also don’t think that anyone who disagrees is thereby an opponent of free speech.

  38. 38
    cjcolucci

    School uniforms are lazy, unfair, and cowardly — you make that sound like a bad thing.:-)

  39. 39
    John Pieret

    Gretchen @ 30 & 37

    Told that his/her views on what isn’t and isn’t sin are not appropriate discussion for a civics class? Yes, I’d say so.

    Civics doesn’t include religion? That homosexuality is sinful is a very common political/social statement today. Indeed, more often than not, the kid probably picked such an opinion up from his parents/church. Now we’re going to have schools telling students that their, their parents and their church’s views are not fit for discussion in class? You may feel that’s ok when a more liberal school district is doing it but what if, in a conservative district, a gay kid was told that his views on same sex marriage were not fit for the classroom? That’s the problem here. Everybody is viewing the 1st Amendment issue through the lens of what they’d like to happen instead of what the 1st Amendment is supposed to do, protect the right of individuals to state their opinions, popular or not.

    Nobody is defending bullying in the name of free speech.

    Of course not. But expressing an opinion about other people’s opinions, lifestyle or identity is is not, without more, bullying. What I’d like to see is all the kids in the school who think Groody is wrong to start wearing T shirts with a picture of a horse’s ass with a big red circle and bar over it.

  40. 40
    Nathair

    whether the shirt in question constitutes bullying. I don’t think it does

    Well then you must have a very interesting personal definition of “bullying”. I’d love to hear what you think students saying “NO GAYS ALLOWED” (and recruiting other kids to join in) to the gay kids in their school is since it’s not bullying. What do you call a pattern of verbal harassment in a situation of power imbalance directed towards a particular victim group on the basis of their sexuality?

  41. 41
    Geds

    Pierce R Butler @1:24: Who is Groody to criticize Yahweh’s post-deluge covenant with the Noah family?

    No, no, no, you’ve got it all wrong. He’s criticizing Kermit the Frog. A far greater sin, in my book…

  42. 42
    Gretchen

    John Pieret said:

    Civics doesn’t include religion?

    Not the religious views of the students, no. When has a class in school ever been about the personal views of the people taking it, much less an opportunity for them to literally preach them?

    Now we’re going to have schools telling students that their, their parents and their church’s views are not fit for discussion in class?

    Uh, we already have that– or we should. It’s called the distinction between school school and Sunday school.

    But expressing an opinion about other people’s opinions, lifestyle or identity is is not, without more, bullying.

    If that opinion is hateful and derisive, it sure as hell can be. I defy you to provide a definition of bullying that excludes such.

  43. 43
    slc1

    Re James Hanley @ #34

    Just as a matter of interest, would Prof. Hanley consider a shirt with the inscription “kill the fags” to be a legitimate expression of personable belief?

  44. 44
    Gretchen

    Nathair said:

    What do you call a pattern of verbal harassment in a situation of power imbalance directed towards a particular victim group on the basis of their sexuality?

    I call it bullying. But I don’t think a t-shirt with a rainbow with a line through it fits that description.

    For one– obvious– thing, it isn’t verbal.
    It’s also not a pattern.
    But most importantly, I don’t think it can be considered harassment per se. I don’t think it’s personal enough or blatant enough. In my first post I articulated those as things which make harassment harassment, and I still think so, while acknowledging that I still don’t know where the dividing line for “enough” is. “I hate fags” certainly would be. “Mark is a fag” or “Jennifer is a dyke” sure would be. A rainbow with a line through it could mean “I hate rainbows,” or it could (more realistically) mean “I think homosexuality is immoral.” And that latter sentiment I think is something I think students should be allowed to express in school, if not as part of a sermon during class time.

  45. 45
    John Pieret

    When has a class in school ever been about the personal views of the people taking it, much less an opportunity for them to literally preach them?

    No discussion about the personal views of students as to politics? Since when? Oh, religious views are somehow excluded from 1st Amendment protection? Not in any court in this land.

    If that opinion is hateful and derisive, it sure as hell can be. I defy you to provide a definition of bullying that excludes such.

    It would only be fair if you first give me a suitable definition of “hateful and derisive” that you’d want a government to wield and that could not be used to exclude any unpopular minority from commenting on public matters. How would atheists fare under a “majority rules” definition of “hateful and derisive” in most of America today? Words or symbols alone are not bullying or, even if you think they are, they are no more actionable under our Constitution than giving a politician the finger. Don’t forget that suspension from mandatory school is considered a punishment legally.

    Some of the indicia of bullying might be following a target around; seeking the target out on social media (though there is likely to be 1st Amendment problems with that); specifically setting out to physically confront the target, with or without physical contact; and, of course any violence at all. There hasn’t been a lot of case law on this and it is not certain that government schools can do more than trying to educate the bullyers.

  46. 46
    Gretchen

    Words or symbols alone are not bullying or, even if you think they are, they are no more actionable under our Constitution than giving a politician the finger.

    Excuse me?

    “Faggot” is a word. Saying “faggot” to someone even once– even that single word– is bullying. And it’s sure as hell actionable under the Constitution when the context is a school, and both the speaker and the target are students. The Constitution in no way shape or form prohibits public schools from punishing bullies. I don’t know where on earth you got the idea that it does.

    Giving a politician the finger is punishable too, if you do in school. Hell, so is giving the bus driver the finger. I know because I got punished for that very thing in the fourth grade. He absolutely deserved it, but that didn’t seem to matter at the time.

  47. 47
    meursalt

    @Gretchen #25

    Smoking is an activity. Being Mexican/African/female/gay is an identity. I see a big distinction there.

    That line of reasoning sounds awfully familiar. Need I elaborate?

    FWIW,. I’d be fine with the examples Gretchen listed in #25. We’re talking about a symbolic picture with a line through it. This is not hate speech; it’s a simple picture. Yes, it may feel like harassment to the people who see it. But it’s a garment that the kid is wearing on his own body, with no words and no patently offensive pictures. Maybe the kid just really doesn’t like rainbows. It should not be up to the government to interpret this stuff and ban it if it’s found that it might be an oblique reference to a hateful sentiment.

    You have a right not to be harassed, but you have no right not to be offended. As long as we’re dealing with the passive act of wearing a garment which doesn’t even contain verbiage, I think this falls squarely into the “offensive” category, rather than harassment.

    By all means, if the kid wants to identify himself as a bigot, it’s only fair that he’s scrutinized a little extra to see if he is doing any actual harassment, which would of course be actionable. But if we look at rights using the classic “ends at my nose” paradigm, the kid wearing the shirt is not taking a swing. Anyone trying to prohibit the kid from wearing the shirt is.

    I was bullied for years in school, both physically and psychologically. I’m not unsympathetic to Gretchen and Gregory. But I think what they’re suggesting is excessive coddling of the victims of bullying at the expense of the rights of the bullies. You can view it as a sacrifice we need to make in order to better preserve rights for everyone. I know this sounds crass, but think of the precedent we’d be setting. Think of the greater good of posterity.

  48. 48
    Knabb

    John Pieret @ 14

    This was exactly the “justification” that several schools have given to ban pro-Gay rights T shirts and things like the Day of Silence. If it “disruptive” to offend the sensibilities of gays, then it is just as disruptive to offend the sensibilities of those who find gays unacceptable. The government cannot and should not be in the business of deciding whether the feelings of gays or anti-gays are more important, if for no other reason, there are a lot of places in this country where the anti-gay messages would not just be allowed but enshrined.

    The cases aren’t even remotely similar. One involves a group claiming that it is “disruptive” to provide support to a group they dislike, the other is a direct attack. Something more analogous to the pro-Gay rights T shirts would be a shirt which merely expressed a pro-Christianity stance, and it is extremely clear that banning that is absurd. Similarly, an analog to the shirt being discussed here would be something that specifically targeted a segment of conservative Christians, and that shirt would be back in a grey area. Insisting that the shirt in question be allowed based on a case that isn’t related and doesn’t parallel it at all is dubious at best.

  49. 49
    Nathair

    I call it bullying. But I don’t think a t-shirt with a rainbow with a line through it fits that description.

    For one– obvious– thing, it isn’t verbal.

    Seriously? You’re think you can arbitrarily divide speech up into modes and judge bullying based on whether the harassment was verbal or non-verbal?

    It’s also not a pattern.

    A kid not only repeatedly wearing the shirt to school but selling other copies to his classmates so they can join him? Not a pattern, not an intentional systematic campaign of microaggression… just, what? A coincidence?

    “I hate fags” certainly would be. “Mark is a fag” or “Jennifer is a dyke” sure would be. A rainbow with a line through it could mean “I hate rainbows,” or it could (more realistically) mean “I think homosexuality is immoral.”

    Actually the circle with a line through it is a universal symbol meaning “NO x ALLOWED”. It is explicit. It doesn’t mean “I think left turns are immoral” or “I hate swimming” or “I think smoking is a choice” it means “No left turns allowed here!”, “No swimming allowed here!”, “No smoking allowed here!” Personally I think a dozen seventeen year old mouthbreathers wearing their matching “NO GAYS ALLOWED HERE!” uniform is every bit as personal and far more implicitly threatening than “I hate fags”. It certainly would have scared the shit out of me in school.

  50. 50
    meursalt

    [jumping back into the fray, hoping to clarify my earlier points a little]

    @Nathair, #49:

    Not a pattern, not an intentional systematic campaign of microaggression…

    I’d hate to live in a world where every form of microagression is prohibited., because that could only be enforced through a totalitarian approach. In any reasonably free society, it will always be possible to walk the line and make one’s bigoted opinions known, even to the object of bigotry, without being explicit enough to cross the line into unprotected speech. Yeah, it sucks, but I’m pretty sure the alternative would be worse.

    It certainly would have scared the shit out of me in school.

    Honestly, would you prefer to live in the midst of people like that and not know? The world is a scary place. Being scared of real and imminent threats is healthy. I’m not saying it’s fun, but it tends to give a survival advantage to know where you stand with entities that would do you harm.

  51. 51
    meursalt

    and btw, Nathair, I meant to include the caveat that I know you were responding to Gretchen, for whom I can’t speak. (I’m honestly not sure what Gretchen’s position here is; Gretchen’s posts have seemed to argue both sides). I just saw in your comments about microaggression a chance to clarify my earlier comments.

  52. 52
    meursalt

    Seriously? You’re think you can arbitrarily divide speech up into modes and judge bullying based on whether the harassment was verbal or non-verbal?

    That’s a good point, Nathair, and I’ve struggled with it a bit while thinking about this post. But some forms of speech are inherently less clear or more ambiguous that others. My reading of the First Amendment tends to give the benefit of the doubt to these forms of speech. I don’t think that’s a controversial position; though I’d be open to hear arguments against it.

    This is a hairy topic, and just while reading this post and the comments, I’ve had to seriously question my position about three times. But I’m still reaching my original conclusions, in favor of allowing such shirts in this particular case.

  53. 53
    lofgren

    It seems to me that almost every argument that this shirt should be banned can be turned around and made into an argument against advocating gay rights or even discussing the subject at all. In fact in many cases, these same arguments have already been used. Schools have attempted to ban gay rights organizations or discussion of homosexuality by students or teachers because it upsets people, disrupts the learning environment, damages students emotionally, etc.

    It’s also been argued that the mere mention of homosexuality is harassment of students who find homosexuality disturbing. Don’t get me wrong, that doesn’t pass the sniff test in my opinion. But for many of the same reasons that I don’t think you can reasonably call this shirt harassment.

    Let’s not pretend that the shirt could possibly indicate something innocuous like a personal disapproval of refracted light through water vapor in the atmosphere. We are not idiots, and a law that requires us to pretend we are idiots is a bad law. So if that’s how the kid scrapes through, well, that’s just embarrassing for the whole country.

    But even if we acknowledge that it indicates personal disapproval of homosexuality, it still doesn’t look like harassment to me. It’s a kid wearing an offensive t-shirt. If the shirt is linked to violence, intimidation, disrespect, or some other, actual harassment, then I think it is reasonable to ban the shirt as part of an effort to show that behavior is unacceptable. But if it can’t be linked, then I don’t see how you can call this harassment without saying that any expression of disapproval of anything is harassment. It’s not even as though he carried a sign wore a ridiculous hat. It’s just a t-shirt, a common piece of apparel for American teens, with a message that some people disagree with.

    If this is harassment, then there is precious little that is not harassment.

  54. 54
    John Pieret

    Gretchen @ 46

    “Faggot” is a word. Saying “faggot” to someone even once– even that single word– is bullying. And it’s sure as hell actionable under the Constitution when the context is a school, and both the speaker and the target are students. The Constitution in no way shape or form prohibits public schools from punishing bullies. I don’t know where on earth you got the idea that it does.

    I suppose you have a case where it was found constitutional to suspend a student for using that word. We’re not talking about detention or calling someone’s parents down to school to discuss the behavior but taking legal action against them as was proposed against Groody.

    Giving a politician the finger is punishable too, if you do in school.

    I’m sorry, not in the US.

    Hell, so is giving the bus driver the finger. I know because I got punished for that very thing in the fourth grade. He absolutely deserved it, but that didn’t seem to matter at the time.

    If you were suspended your parents had every right to sue the school. I can’t say that government never gets away with with violating people’s rights, just that we should not make it easy for them.

  55. 55
    John Pieret

    Knabb @ 48:

    Something more analogous to the pro-Gay rights T shirts would be a shirt which merely expressed a pro-Christianity stance, and it is extremely clear that banning that is absurd.

    But many Christians think that saying homosexuals are sinners is a pro-Christianity stance. Who gets to say that they are wrong and can’t support their religious beliefs the way they want to? Let’s get this straight, you and I would agree on this distinction. The problem is turning over the right to make that distinction to the government and allowing it to enforce its “judgment” with the power of law is a danger to everyone’s rights. Indeed, the slowness of our constitutional law to recognize that the majority’s judgment of the extent of LGBT people’s rights is the very thing that has most hurt them.

  56. 56
    Gretchen

    Perhaps, John Pieret, you could identify the magical point where the Constitution makes it permissible for a public school to punish a student for expression deemed to be harassment, but not suspend them. Last I checked, the document says nothing at all on that topic, nor has the Supreme Court.

  57. 57
  58. 58
    Gretchen

    That link discusses a student’s rights in the face of a suspension. It doesn’t discuss offenses which Constitutionally merit the punishment.

  59. 59
    Nathair

    I’d hate to live in a world where every form of microagression is prohibited.

    I wasn’t suggesting anything of the kind, merely that we admit that such aggression is aggression.

    Honestly, would you prefer to live in the midst of people like that and not know?

    Again, not at all the point. Gay kids already know that they live in the midst of these people. (I mean, did you look at the picture of Groody?) The point is that this is the educational equivalent of creating a hostile work environment. What would your position be if Groody and his pals had started wearing Nazi swastikas as a reaction to Jewish students in the school? Oh, that’s right, schools routinely ban that symbol…

  60. 60
    John Pieret

    Gretchen @ 58

    I’m sorry, I thought it was obvious that punishing someone for exercising their constitutional right to free speech was obvious denial of due process.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Due_Process_Clause

    You may want to deny students all free speech rights but I wonder on what basis?

  61. 61
    Michael Heath

    Synfadel writes:

    A public school has a responsibility to its staff and students to provide a safe teaching and learning environment that is free of abuse and intimidation. It’s not a park or a public square.

    By far the most important public forum where I developed my policy positions was in public school. I can think of few places more important in protecting speech. It was free speech that allowed me to validate the hypocrisy and lies of the evangelical/fundamentalists who unsuccessfully attempted to indoctrinate me during non-school events.

    I concede drawing the line on expression vs. disruptions and harassment is tricky in school environment. But it’s worth the effort to work through this in a way where we minimize both unacceptable behaviors in a way increases speech, including speech against those who seek to disrupt or harass. And a great way to champion such is to protect speech in those events we privately control.

    The answer is rarely, ‘shut up’; that’s the haven of scoundrels and those who can’t defend their arguments in a free speech friendly environment. They need protection from scrutiny where we need to shine lights.

  62. 62
    Michael Heath

    meursalt writes:

    You have a right not to be harassed, but you have no right not to be offended.

    Our rights are inalienable. People obviously have a right to not be offended where people exercise that right all the time. The existence of that right doesn’t necessarily mean the government will protect an individual’s right to not be offended, especially in cases where the competing rights of others are superior to the point of being worthy of government protection.

  63. 63
    Nathair

    The answer is rarely, ‘shut up’; that’s the haven of scoundrels and those who can’t defend their arguments in a free speech friendly environment

    The answer is rarely “shut up”, that is true on the street corner or the steps of City Hall but in math class it’s the default response to attempts at disruption or intimidation. Look up your local high school dress code; you can’t wear a bikini top and “Daisy Dukes”, you can’t wear a T-shirt featuring a tobacco ad or gang insignia, the list is quite long and totally violates Constitutional free speech protections. This is the case because school officials should not be expected to “defend their arguments in a free speech friendly environment” with every 17 year old who feels like causing shit.

  64. 64
    dingojack

    We hate matches
    OR
    We hate oiling cogs

    Dingo

  65. 65
    dingojack

    And there are plenty more:
    We hate mugs
    We hate cutlery

    & so on, & so forth…

    ;) Dingo

  66. 66
    lofgren

    I fucking hate oiling cogs.

  67. 67
    dingojack

    Personally, I hate mugs, particularly when they have a saucer and are steaming.
    :) Dingo

  68. 68
    dingojack

    OT
    Many years ago my mother was looking for a drinking glass for my dad. She went into the Chemist (the only local store likely to have that kind of thing in those days*) and asked the owner: Do you have a tall, thin drinking mug**?”
    Without missing a beat he replied “You’re looking at him.”
    Dingo
    ——-
    * This was back in the days when there was a mixed farming and grain store on main street
    ** See definition 4

  69. 69
    bad Jim

    Let me suggest a couple of heuristics:

    1. If you find yourself taking violent objection to an action by the ACLU, your first thought ought to be “What am I missing?” They aren’t idiots, in fact they’re experts, and they’re typically on our side.

    2. Authoritarian actions by a school, or any public body, however well-meaning, ought to be scrutinized with a jaundiced eye. More often than not they tend to promote conformity and enforce the prevailing orthodoxy. If you find yourself agreeing with restrictions on expression, you ought to ask yourself “What am I missing?” Aren’t we anti-authoritarian?

    In some districts kids have been disciplined for wearing pagan or atheist symbols, or prevented from forming secularist or gay-friendly clubs, for much the same reasons given in the case under discussion. If we think our kids ought to be free to challenge their stifling orthodoxy, theirs ought to be free to challenge ours.

  70. 70
    dingojack

    Stopping someone from “falsely yelling ‘ticking time bomb’ in a crowd elevator” isn’t authoritarian, it’s being concerned about the welfare of others within our community, the very antithesis of authoritarian*.
    Dingo
    ——–
    * In some cases, in order to protect people from harm, speech must be restricted. It’s rare, but it does happen.

  71. 71
    lofgren

    it’s being concerned about the welfare of others within our community, the very antithesis of authoritarian

    This would suggest that the definition of authoritarian is “lack of concern for the welfare of others within the community.” As this is not the definition of authoritarian, it seems that you think bad Jim is making an argument he is not making.

    In some cases, in order to protect people from harm, speech must be restricted.

    The “harm” that is being claimed in this case is some kind of implicit threat of violence or ongoing harassment of gay students. Given that nobody has been able to show this was the case, I still don’t know why we are treating this claim as anything other than a hypothetical.

    In the comments on the cited article, some posters argued that Groody’s t-shirt should constitute harassment because he wore it on the National Day of Silence. But the whole point of the Day of Silence is to draw attention to these issues. It’s not reasonable to say that gay students can use the school as a forum for their position, but that anybody who takes the opposite position (in about the most innocuous possible way) is guilty of bullying and harassment. If gay students and their allies come to school with tape over their mouths and Groody and his droogs come with their t-shirts, then it seems to me that a silent, non-disruptive, non-violent debate is occurring that mirrors the debate in larger society. Telling one side of that debate to shut the hell up seems counterproductive.

    I think Michael Heath makes an important point, as well. We learn a lot in high school that has nothing to do with what the teachers tell us. One of those things is how to communicate our message. Another is how to deal with people who are different or believe differently than we do. Again, if the debate spills over into harassment then I think most here would agree that banning the shirts makes sense, as they would at that point have become a symbol of that harassment. But at this point all they are doing is offering a counterpoint to the gay advocates at the school who are also staging a very similar style of argument. Striking the right balance of encouraging students to speak their minds and discouraging disrespect may be difficult at times, and may even vary from district to district and year to year, but it is worthwhile to try. A feeling of safety that comes at the expense of the students’ trust that their views matter and their opinions will be heard is a Pyrrhic victory.

  72. 72
    dingojack

    Lofgren – that interesting. I read Bad Jim’s statement as a general statement* that, in part, (falsely) equated ‘liberal’ with ‘absolute freedom of speech’**. In my opinion liberals recognise the need for some restrictions of freedom of speech such as ‘time & place’ and ‘imminent danger’ & etc.
    Dingo
    ——–
    * They were ‘heuristics’ after all
    ** “If you find yourself agreeing with restrictions on expression, you ought to ask yourself “What am I missing? Aren’t we anti-authoritarian?” Notice how absolute and unqualified that ‘restrictive of expression’ is; notice also how ‘restrictive of expression’ can only be ‘authoritarian’., so ‘liberals’ must disagree with it absolutely and without qualification.
    Wouldn’t it be better consider when and where speech can be legitimately restricted or not, and why you think think so.

    OBTW – Authoritarians generally don’t care about others, outside of themselves, their immediate circle or their own genus. Those not within these concentric sets are ‘other’ and therefore ‘subhuman’.

  73. 73
    lofgren

    Notice how absolute and unqualified that ‘restrictive of expression’ is;

    Quotemine much? Read the whole paragraph. “restriction on expression” follows an introductory sentence that refers to “Authoritarian actions”

    Now, I don’t know bad Jim. Maybe he was trying to say what you think he was trying to say. Given the context of the discussion, that seems out-of-place to me, but it wouldn’t be the first time somebody injected something totally inappropriate into a conversation on Ed’s blog. However, given that there is a perfectly reasonable, contextually appropriate way to interpret his statement, I am inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt.

    so ‘liberals’ must disagree with it absolutely and without qualification.

    First of all, I think it is in extremely bad form to put quote marks around a statement to imply that the person you were responding to said it when they most definitely did not. This is the second time you did it in a single post.

    Second, bad Jim said nothing about liberals. He said “we,” which I took to refer generally to the audience or at least the supporters of this blog. Given that this is Ed’s position, and that many commenters do take a similar approach to free speech, I thought it was a fair use of the pronoun.

    Finally, bad Jim proposes a heuristic, and uses non-committal words like “examine.” It does not seem to me that he is remotely claiming that “liberals” “must” “disagree” with restrictions on speech “absolutely and without qualification.” What he is suggesting is that the ACLU are some pretty smart people, and that giving a school the authority to restrict expression in this manner is very likely to, in future cases, result in outcomes that we very much do not like, so it is probably wiser to give the ACLU the benefit of the doubt rather than the school administration while you do a little further investigation.

    Wouldn’t it be better consider when and where speech can be legitimately restricted or not, and why you think think so.

    It seems to me that is exactly what bad Jim is suggesting, although he is further suggesting that the answers should be “very rarely” and “only for a really, really good reason.” Inciting a panic is probably a really good reason.

    Although given the context of the discussion and his use of the word “expression” rather than “speech,” I don’t even think your example really falls under bad Jim’s heuristic. It is very unlikely that a person who falsely claims there is a bomb in an elevator is expressing some deeply held philosophical, religious, or political view. A student who believes that homosexuality is wrong and wears a t-shirt to advertise that belief may be doing all three. One of these is not like the other.

    If you have some history with bad Jim that suggests he approaches the world in such a Manichean fashion, then it could be that I am being too generous. However your response looks to me more like some irrational knee-jerk sensitivity than a reasoned response to his point (which, if my interpretation is accurate, I found both wise and salient).

  74. 74
    Michael Heath

    Me earlier:

    The answer is rarely, ‘shut up’; that’s the haven of scoundrels and those who can’t defend their arguments in a free speech friendly environment.

    Nathair responds:

    The answer is rarely “shut up”, that is true on the street corner or the steps of City Hall but in math class it’s the default response to attempts at disruption or intimidation. Look up your local high school dress code; you can’t wear a bikini top and “Daisy Dukes”, you can’t wear a T-shirt featuring a tobacco ad or gang insignia, the list is quite long and totally violates Constitutional free speech protections. This is the case because school officials should not be expected to “defend their arguments in a free speech friendly environment” with every 17 year old who feels like causing shit.

    We’ve been debating and discussing speech rights in school in Ed’s forum for many years now. Adding disruption or other factors, like harrassment, to what I wrote moves the goal posts on what I wrote, which was strictly about speech. We’re not simpletons here, this forum understands our speech rights should not be protected to the extent we’re disrupting a math class or harassing somebody. So I stand by what I wrote.

    And I do not concede that wearing a T-shirt featuring a tobacco ad or gang insignia, “totally violates Constitutional free speech protections“. There may be precedents that makes this the current holding, but precedent alone does not end the debate on whether those precedents are proper are not, e.g., many constitutional scholars object to the Bong Hits for Jesus ruling or Citizens United where I concur; they are horribly argued opinions which currently hold. Some precedents get over-turned, and in order for that to eventually happen, objecting to them, ya know – more speech, is a needed factor.

    Sheesh.

  75. 75
    John Pieret

    lofgren @ 71

    The “harm” that is being claimed in this case is some kind of implicit threat of violence or ongoing harassment of gay students. Given that nobody has been able to show this was the case, I still don’t know why we are treating this claim as anything other than a hypothetical.

    In the comments on the cited article, some posters argued that Groody’s t-shirt should constitute harassment because he wore it on the National Day of Silence. But the whole point of the Day of Silence is to draw attention to these issues. It’s not reasonable to say that gay students can use the school as a forum for their position, but that anybody who takes the opposite position (in about the most innocuous possible way) is guilty of bullying and harassment.

    Well said. At the very least, it can’t be said that a T shirt is bullying and harassment per se.

    If gay students and their allies come to school with tape over their mouths and Groody and his droogs come with their t-shirts, then it seems to me that a silent, non-disruptive, non-violent debate is occurring that mirrors the debate in larger society. Telling one side of that debate to shut the hell up seems counterproductive.

    Not just counterproductive but harmful to our values because not all (indeed, all too few) schools in America (the local majority) will take the gay students’ side. We protect our opponents’ right to freedom of speech because it is the only way to protect our own freedom of speech!

    Striking the right balance of encouraging students to speak their minds and discouraging disrespect may be difficult at times, and may even vary from district to district and year to year, but it is worthwhile to try. A feeling of safety that comes at the expense of the students’ trust that their views matter and their opinions will be heard is a Pyrrhic victory.

    Exactly!

  76. 76
    dingojack

    So ‘liberal’ is not a reasonable antithesis to ‘authoritarian’?*
    The whole of the Bad Jim’s second para says to me:’Authoritarians restrict speech; (anti-authoritarians do not). Aren’t we anti-authoritarians? If so we should not restrict speech’.
    Which as I said is not really a good starting point – a better one (IMHO) is: ‘Are there particular circumstances when speech should be unrestricted, are there particular circumstance where should should be some restrictions?’ What are they? What are the limits of such restrictions? & etc.
    It doesn’t have the concealed assumption of restriction of speech is always an ‘authoritarian action’..
    Dingo
    ——–
    * These are in quotes because they are labels not just general concepts

  77. 77
    Nathair

    The “harm” that is being claimed in this case is some kind of implicit threat of violence or ongoing harassment of gay students. Given that nobody has been able to show this was the case

    When a group of students has started wearing shirts proclaiming that a small minority of their fellow students are not welcome in the school, how exactly is that not harassment? As to the implication of violence, let’s consider this Seth Groody fellow. Here’s his YouTube page full of guns, guns, guns, trucks and guns. How would you feel if he and his friends singled you out as unwelcome? Relaxed? Content? Columbine?

    Adding disruption or other factors, like harrassment, to what I wrote moves the goal posts on what I wrote, which was strictly about speech. We’re not simpletons here

    Rules applying to speech outside of school often do not hold within. School dress and behaviour codes commonly restrict speech which is disruptive or constitutes harassment. I pulled a couple of examples from a couple of random school dress codes, emphasis mine;

    Santa Fe Public Schools: Clothing, tattoos, or accessories which advertise, display, or promote any drug (including tobacco and alcohol), sexual innuendo, violence, weaponry, profanity, hate, bigotry or gang related paraphernalia .

    Serra High School, San Diego: Garments, Hats, Backpacks, and Accessories Must Not Display: Profane, sexually suggestive, obscene language or pictures, Vulgar gestures, Racial, ethnic or sexist slurs, Messages about drugs, alcohol, or tobacco, Images depicting violence, Gang related graffiti.

    Clothing advertising bigotry, sexism, racism, hatred are not allowed in schools. How is this example different?

    And I do not concede that wearing a T-shirt featuring a tobacco ad or gang insignia, “totally violates Constitutional free speech protections“.

    No. You appear to have completely misunderstood. It is forbidding someone to wear a Marlboro Man shirt that totally violates that person’s Constitutional free speech protections… on the public street. A student inside a school is quite another story.

  78. 78
    Nathair

    In the comments on the cited article, some posters argued that Groody’s t-shirt should constitute harassment because he wore it on the National Day of Silence. But the whole point of the Day of Silence is to draw attention to these issues. It’s not reasonable to say that gay students can use the school as a forum for their position, but that anybody who takes the opposite position (in about the most innocuous possible way) is guilty of bullying and harassment.

    A few points. One is that Groody and his friends are not wearing these shirts on the National Day of Silence, that was merely when he started wearing it. Since the school backed down on the ban he began selling them to his friends. (Although they do certainly plan to wear them on this year’s National Day of Silence.)

    Another point is that the National Day of Silence is not an invitation to “debate the issues”, it is intended to be the one day that kids formally recognize and protest the bullying and harassment LGBT kids face every day of the year. Suggesting that the pro-bullying, pro-harassment forces in the school should be invited on that day to have their say misses the point. Entirely.

    If gay students and their allies come to school with tape over their mouths and Groody and his droogs come with their t-shirts, then it seems to me that a silent, non-disruptive, non-violent debate is occurring that mirrors the debate in larger society. Telling one side of that debate to shut the hell up seems counterproductive.

    You are forgetting (or ignoring) the fact that there is a massive imbalance of power and pressure here. You can’t just ignore institutionalized homophobia. This one day a year is intended to raise awareness of the effect Groody and his privileged ilk have on their chosen oppressed minority the other three hundred and sixty four.

    There is also a distinct difference in how schools should respond to a plea for tolerance and acceptance and a message promoting bigotry and intolerance. This is not “larger society”, this is not the wild and wooly marketplace of ideas where free association governs, this is a public school where minor children from all walks and stripes are forced together and a workable modus vivendi must be imposed. Let us not forget that unrestrained bullying, harassment and intolerance of this nature kills children.

  79. 79
    John Pieret

    Another point is that the National Day of Silence is not an invitation to “debate the issues”, it is intended to be the one day that kids formally recognize and protest the bullying and harassment LGBT kids face every day of the year. Suggesting that the pro-bullying, pro-harassment forces in the school should be invited on that day to have their say misses the point. Entirely.

    So the government can declare a debate-free day on any controversial issue and use the law to punish anyone who disagrees?

    You are forgetting (or ignoring) the fact that there is a massive imbalance of power and pressure here. You can’t just ignore institutionalized homophobia. This one day a year is intended to raise awareness of the effect Groody and his privileged ilk have on their chosen oppressed minority the other three hundred and sixty four.

    So you are depending on the government to right the massive imbalance of power and pressure instead of enforcing it? Even if the school in this case was doing the “right” thing by your lights, if this precedent stood, what would prevent other schools allowing a Day of Homophobia and preventing gays and their allies from protesting?

  80. 80
    lofgren

    Another point is that the National Day of Silence is not an invitation to “debate the issues”

    Did you see what I wrote earlier about how slimy it is to put something in quotes in order to imply that somebody said it when they clearly did not? I never said that National Day of Silence is an invitation to debate. I said its purpose is to draw attention to the plight of gay students. But whether you like it or not, you can’t declare that your opponents must keep their yaps shut on Day of Silence, which means that the event is going to spur reactions and debate. Maybe you don’t want that debate, but it’s beyond your power. Neither private nor public institutions have the right to declare that one day a year is their special day when other people cannot express themselves.

    You are forgetting (or ignoring) the fact that there is a massive imbalance of power and pressure here. You can’t just ignore institutionalized homophobia.

    No you can’t, which is precisely why you don’t want to give the school the power to silence messages like this one. In this school, in this case, it’s a t-shirt with a message you don’t like. That’s not going to be the case a lot of the time. This was exactly bad Jim’s point: most of the time, the school is going to side with the dominant elements in society. Give them the power to silence students who express themselves in a non-disruptive, non-threatening way and it is guaranteed to blow up in your face.

    Let us not forget that unrestrained bullying, harassment and intolerance of this nature kills children.

    Wow, dude. Reel in the drama. It’s a t-shirt. These aren’t kindergarteners. This is not “unrestrained” bullying. It’s pretty damn civilized, frankly. Groody is expressing himself without resorting to violence, slurs, attacks, or menacing. This is bullying and harassment? If so, those words have now lost all meaning. You’re trivializing the very real experience of bullying victims by making it sound like a guy wearing a t-shirt is just as bad as what they go through. You need to keep this in perspective.

  81. 81
    MKandefer

    Lofgren,

    I think you’re understating the message here. As a gay male if I were to see someone wearing this shirt at work I would see both a message I disagree with AND one that causes me hurt and feelings of being unwelcome just because I am gay. To me there is little difference between someone calling me “faggot” and wearing this shirt. Both tell me I am undesireable to this person. As acknowledged earlier this is one person, but I would not understate the effects this could have on gay youth if a majority of their classmates started wearing the shirt.

    This is not an just innocuous statement of disagreement, it also sends a message that gay people are not welcome.

  82. 82
    Nathair

    So the government can declare a debate-free day on any controversial issue and use the law to punish anyone who disagrees?

    That’s quite a pile of straw you’ve got there. No, this is not the government declaring a debate free day, this is a decision as to whether turning math class into the proper forum for children to debate bigotry and intolerance interferes with the educational mission of the school.

    So you are depending on the government to right the massive imbalance of power and pressure instead of enforcing it? Even if the school in this case was doing the “right” thing by your lights, if this precedent stood, what would prevent other schools allowing a Day of Homophobia and preventing gays and their allies from protesting?

    You are suggesting that tolerance and intolerance are balanced mirror images and that schools should treat them as value neutral. The problem with that is that schools are institutions charged with a particular task. Promoting intolerance and bullying runs exactly counter to that mission. Stop thinking of schools as just public places where kids happen to congregate during the day.

    Did you see what I wrote earlier about how slimy it is to put something in quotes in order to imply that somebody said it when they clearly did not? I never said that National Day of Silence is an invitation to debate

    I refer you to your post #71 in which you said that “a silent, non-disruptive, non-violent debate is occurring that mirrors the debate in larger society”. The Day of Silence is not intended as an invitation to hold that debate and neither is math class the appropriate forum for it.

    You can’t just ignore institutionalized homophobia

    No you can’t, which is precisely why you don’t want to give the school the power to silence messages like this one. In this school, in this case, it’s a t-shirt with a message you don’t like

    Because you can’t ignore institutionalize homophobia you should not expect the schools to act to combat it? I have no idea what that was supposed to mean.

    And, it needs to be repeated, this case it is not merely a “t-shirt” with a message I don’t like, it is a t-shirt with a message promoting bigotry, intolerance and that self same institutionalized homophobia.

    Wow, dude. Reel in the drama. It’s a t-shirt. These aren’t kindergarteners.

    A comprehensively wrong set of assumptions there. Most importantly, while you are correct that these aren’t kindergarteners, that is not a good thing. They are, instead, square within the age range in which LGBT suicide attempt rates run to around one in three. That’s not drama, dude, that’s fucking tragedy.

    Groody is expressing himself without resorting to violence, slurs, attacks, or menacing. This is bullying and harassment?

    Yes, this is bullying and harassment, your Akinesque efforts towards a “legitimate harassment” definition notwithstanding.

  83. 83
    lofgren

    As acknowledged earlier this is one person, but I would not understate the effects this could have on gay youth if a majority of their classmates started wearing the shirt.

    OK, but that is also a hypothetical scenario.

    To be clear, I’m not saying that the school should take no action whatsoever. I’m only saying that banning the shirt and punishing Groody is not the appropriate action.

    As for whether or not this is the same as calling somebody a faggot, I disagree. You can feel that it is the same, but demonstrably it is not.

    My high school had a problem with antisemitism. We dealt with it through school assemblies and education. Our situation was different because the conflict spilled over into violence, but even so the antisemites were allowed to participate in the conversation. Each class gathered in the auditorium where we watched a movie about the history of antisemitic atrocities. The result, I think, was far more effective than merely silencing the bigots. I realize that this appears in a superficial way to support the argument above that allowing students to express disapproval of homosexuality is distracting from the curriculum. But the thing is that it was not the symbols of their disapproval that caused the problem at my school. The problem was already there. And while time was taken away from the primary curriculum in order to teach tolerance and self-awareness, I can think of few lessons more important. Unfortunately, we as a society do not have the luxury of learning these lessons only once. Irrespective of the free speech issue, using school authority to tell Groody to remove the shirt under threat of punishment is denying the problem, not addressing it.

  84. 84
    lofgren

    The Day of Silence is not intended as an invitation to hold that debate and neither is math class the appropriate forum for it.

    It doesn’t matter what is “intended” by it. It’s a statement. As you cannot silence your critics, they have the right to respond to it as they will. That makes it a debate.

    If math class is not the appropriate forum for this, then participation in the Day of Silence must also be banned, as must any advocacy of gay rights or clothing that identifies support of that cause or homosexuality. You cannot silence half the debate because the forum is inappropriate. You need to treat both sides equally.

    Because you can’t ignore institutionalize homophobia you should not expect the schools to act to combat it? I have no idea what that was supposed to mean.

    I see the problem. You don’t know what the word “institutionalized” means. This was not an incident of institutionalized homophobia. This was an incident of individual homophobia which the institution was attempting to quash. The existence of institutionalized homophobia is a good reason not to give institutions the power to silence and punish dissenting viewpoints.

    And, it needs to be repeated, this case it is not merely a “t-shirt” with a message I don’t like, it is a t-shirt with a message promoting bigotry, intolerance and that self same institutionalized homophobia.

    Which are all things you don’t like. I think we get it. I don’t like radishes but that doesn’t give me the right to silence radish promoters.

    Yes, this is bullying and harassment, your Akinesque efforts towards a “legitimate harassment” definition notwithstanding.

    Bullshit. I’m not appealing to “legitimate harassment.” I’m the one saying that there is harassment, and there is not harassment. You’re the one who wants to define the word out of existence.

  85. 85
    MKandefer

    I agree that those sound like good solutions to anti-semitism.

    When I said the gay shirt and shirt were the same I was not saying that they are the same in all aspects, as they are clearly different in that one is vocalized and one is a symbol. However, both are interpreted by brains and this brain interprets both as being a statement against me being a desireable person. Please don’t diminish my feelings, they are relevant to a discussion on how this shirt affects gay people. It is a discussion that should include how certain language and symbols effect one’s mental state, in particular, on how they t-shirts may create mental states that make one feel worthless.

  86. 86
    John Pieret

    That’s quite a pile of straw you’ve got there. No, this is not the government declaring a debate free day, this is a decision as to whether turning math class into the proper forum for children to debate bigotry and intolerance interferes with the educational mission of the school.

    Then how do some kids get to take the Day of Silence into math class to, in your words, “formally recognize and protest the bullying and harassment LGBT kids face every day” without interfering with the educational mission of the school? You can’t (reasonably) have it both ways.

    You are suggesting that tolerance and intolerance are balanced mirror images and that schools should treat them as value neutral.

    No, I’m saying that the last institution we want deciding what speech counts as tolerant or intolerant is the government. Stop thinking of public schools as some sort of ideal institutions that will be run in the manner you’d like. They are an arm of the local majority and the 1st Amendment was particularly crafted to protect everyone from that.

  87. 87
    Raging Bee

    …the knowledge that some people are going to dislike or even hate them because of their skin color, their gender or their sexual orientation? That’s not protecting them, it’s keeping them ignorant of the way the world is.

    Right…because certain people need to be reminded every day that they are hated and may be in danger of assault by bullies. It’s for their own good. If we let them get uppity without reminding them they’re a vulnerable minority, we’re endangering them. But if we let the worst bigots flaunt their bigorty in the minorities’ faces, with impunity, that’s doing teh vulnerable minorities a favor, amirite?

    Sorry, Ed, but the ACLU is dead wrong here, both because wearing anti-gay (or anti-anyone-else) T-shirts is a means of creating a hostile environment, and because this is a HIGH SCHOOL — telling kids what to wear and how to behave and not behave is part of the educational mission.

  88. 88
    Raging Bee

    Then how do some kids get to take the Day of Silence into math class to, in your words, “formally recognize and protest the bullying and harassment LGBT kids face every day” without interfering with the educational mission of the school?

    Because events like the Day of Silence have the effect of drawing attention to bigotry and hostility, while wearing bigoted T-shirts PROMOTES and ENABLES bigotry and hostility. There’s a significant difference here, so yes, we CAN “have it both ways.” Just as we can teach about the Holocaust and still discourage kids from wearing swastikas to school.

  89. 89
    Raging Bee

    No, I’m saying that the last institution we want deciding what speech counts as tolerant or intolerant is the government.

    Whom do you trust more to make such decisions, if not an elected government acting under the dictates of the US Constitution, as amended?

    Stop thinking of public schools as some sort of ideal institutions that will be run in the manner you’d like.

    Yeah, stop trying to make public schools better than their dumbest critics say they are!

    They are an arm of the local majority and the 1st Amendment was particularly crafted to protect everyone from that.

    Um…yeah, that’s kinda what we’re trying to do here — protect kids from majority bigotry, so ALL kids benefit from the equal protection of the laws.

    Damn, John, can’t you go a little easier on the non-sequiturs?

  90. 90
    Raging Bee

    Wow, dude. Reel in the drama. It’s a t-shirt. These aren’t kindergarteners. This is not “unrestrained” bullying. It’s pretty damn civilized, frankly. Groody is expressing himself without resorting to violence, slurs, attacks, or menacing. This is bullying and harassment? If so, those words have now lost all meaning. You’re trivializing the very real experience of bullying victims by making it sound like a guy wearing a t-shirt is just as bad as what they go through. You need to keep this in perspective.

    Fuck off, lofgren, we don’t need the likes of you lecturing us about “perspective.” YOU need to get some “perspective” and remember that people — including (or perhaps especially) teenagers — can indeed be deterred from equal participation in necessary avtivities, and even driven to suicide, by “civilized” non-violent means. And such means include “chill girls” like you obliviously denying there’s a problem and telling others to “grow thicker skin” so they can keep on not caring in peace.

  91. 91
    lofgren

    Please don’t diminish my feelings, they are relevant to a discussion on how this shirt affects gay people.

    Absolutely they are relevant to how this shirt affects gay people, specifically how it affects you.

    They are not relevant to whether or not the shirt can be banned.

  92. 92
    John Pieret

    Bee …

    Because events like the Day of Silence have the effect of drawing attention to bigotry and hostility, while wearing bigoted T-shirts PROMOTES and ENABLES bigotry and hostility. There’s a significant difference here, so yes, we CAN “have it both ways.” Just as we can teach about the Holocaust and still discourage kids from wearing swastikas to school.

    Again, the school did not try to “discourage” this odious little skinhead-in-training, they threatened to take legal action against him. The Supreme Court has determined that suspending students without due process and for exercising their constitutional rights is a violation of the of the student’s constitutional rights.

    Whom do you trust more to make such decisions [deciding what speech counts as tolerant or intolerant], if not an elected government acting under the dictates of the US Constitution, as amended?

    Really, have you paid any attention to this thread? The school district in this case was ignoring the Constitution, which is why the ACLU stepped in and (no doubt after consulting their attorneys) the school district backed down.

    Yeah, stop trying to make public schools better than their dumbest critics say they are!

    By all means try to make public schools better … as you said, “under the dictates of the US Constitution.”

    They are an arm of the local majority and the 1st Amendment was particularly crafted to protect everyone from that.

    Um…yeah, that’s kinda what we’re trying to do here — protect kids from majority bigotry, so ALL kids benefit from the equal protection of the laws.

    I see, you’ll violate the Constitution in order to enforce it. How, exactly does that work?

    Damn, John, can’t you go a little easier on the non-sequiturs?

    Trust me, I’d never try to compete with a master of the art like you.

  93. 93
    John Pieret

    Oh, yeah ..

    Right…because certain people need to be reminded every day that they are hated and may be in danger of assault by bullies.

    If there was any “danger of assault” then the school could have done something. But are you in the habit of making assertions without evidence?

    But if we let the worst bigots flaunt their bigorty in the minorities’ faces, with impunity, that’s doing teh vulnerable minorities a favor, amirite?

    Who gets to decide what counts as “the worst bigots” and what constitutes flaunting bigotry? Would you like a school district in Alabama making that decision about a kid wearing a T shirt that says “There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life”? Of course, if you get to be dictator of the US, then you can make the decision. In the meantime, given the messy business of democracy, the Bill of Rights is our best and only defense against the “tyranny of the majority.”

    … telling kids what to wear and how to behave and not behave is part of the educational mission.

    In the US, that means that what you call “majority bigotry” will decide what the educational mission is supposed to be. Unless, that is, we enforce the Constitution vigorously … which is what the ACLU was doing.

  94. 94
    Raging Bee

    The school district in this case was ignoring the Constitution, which is why the ACLU stepped in and (no doubt after consulting their attorneys) the school district backed down.

    Looks to me like the ACLU threatened a nuisance suit, and the school district — which I’m guessing is a bit short of funds and probably doesn’t much care about standing up to bullies anyway — backed down to avoid a costly lawsuit. That doesn’t say much about the merits of the rule in question.

    The Supreme Court has determined that suspending students without due process and for exercising their constitutional rights is a violation of the of the student’s constitutional rights.

    Citation needed, including a specific quote from a ruling comparable to this case. Where, EXACTLY, does the Supreme Court say that public schools can’t enforce rules of conduct to maintain a proper learning environment for all students?

    Would you like a school district in Alabama making that decision about a kid wearing a T shirt that says “There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life”?

    Just because you can point to someone who would make a wrong decision, doesn’t mean the decision should not be made, or can be avoided. (Besides, your example is not an expression of hostility toward any person or group of people, so it’s an invalid comparison here.)

    In the meantime, given the messy business of democracy, the Bill of Rights is our best and only defense against the “tyranny of the majority.”

    Do you even know what the Bill of Rights says? Here’s a hint: it’s more than one paragraph long. As in, there’s more than one right to be upheld, and more than one person who has rights. As Michael Heath rightly pointed out more than once previously, interpreting the Constitution does not mean mindlessly enforcing one right of one person; it means reconciling the MANY rights that MANY people have when they bump into each other in various situations of close proximity. If you can’t understand that rather obvious fact, then you’re not in a position to interpret the Constitution for others.

  95. 95
    John Pieret

    Citation needed

    Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District

    http://www.bc.edu/bc_org/avp/cas/comm/free_speech/tinker.html

    Re Due Process in school suspensions

    http://law.duke.edu/childedlaw/schooldiscipline/attorneys/fedcon/

    Where, EXACTLY, does the Supreme Court say that public schools can’t enforce rules of conduct to maintain a proper learning environment for all students?

    I never said that. But a school cannot allow free speech to one side of an issue and not to the other. If it is “disruptive” of education to have speech about an issue that is controversial socially/politically, the government cannot allow one side to speak to it and not the other, no matter how distasteful you (or I) find one side or the other.

    Besides, your example is not an expression of hostility toward any person or group of people, so it’s an invalid comparison here.

    Aren’t “New Atheists” constantly being accused of being nasty, judgmental and hostile to religious people? Again, you are asking the government to enforce your definition of what is “hostile” over what other people may think it entails and, based on that, suppress the speech of the people you don’t like. If you can do it in one place, then your opponents can do it where they are the majority. That means everyone’s rights suffer.

    Here’s a hint: it’s more than one paragraph long. As in, there’s more than one right to be upheld, and more than one person who has rights. As Michael Heath rightly pointed out more than once previously, interpreting the Constitution does not mean mindlessly enforcing one right of one person; it means reconciling the MANY rights that MANY people have when they bump into each other in various situations of close proximity.

    [Sigh!] I do this for a living. I’m well aware that people’s rights bump up against each other’s. Please tell me, however, which of the Amendments guarantees the right of an individual not to be offended? I know which one says that you have the right to speak even if you offend others.

    Note that I am not saying that the school can’t take steps to prevent disruption of education or that they have to allow bullying. But no one has presented any evidence that the T shirt was anything more than protected speech on a subject that the school had allowed other students to speak on.

    This was definitely not a threat of a nuisance suit. The school district’s actions were, at the very least, facially unconstitutional and the ACLU was totally justified in bringing it to the district’s attention.

  96. 96
    Raging Bee

    … which of the Amendments guarantees the right of an individual not to be offended?

    We’re not talking about “offense,” moron, we’re talking about actions that could, if unchecked, add up to a hostile climate that makes it hard for certain people to go to a public facility — as kids are required to go to school — and participate on an equal basis with equal confidence. Belittling such valid concerns as a “right not to be offended,” and then saying there’s no such right, is what a lot of bullies have been doing lately. And it’s flat-out wrong: people DO have a right not to be offended, at least when they’re in public facilities doing things they’re legally eititled or obligated to do. It’s not an unlimited right, of course — but neither is free speech.

  97. 97
    Raging Bee

    … If it is “disruptive” of education to have speech about an issue that is controversial socially/politically, the government cannot allow one side to speak to it and not the other…

    Really? So if a public-school class begins talking about racism, the school can no longer prevent kids from wearing T-shirts that say “niggers suck” or “death to Jews?” Please.

    And you do this sort of thing for a living? I guess that puts you in the same class as Rush Limbaugh.

  98. 98
    John Pieret

    Really? So if a public-school class begins talking about racism, the school can no longer prevent kids from wearing T-shirts that say “niggers suck” or “death to Jews?” Please.

    This wasn’t a class. The students (good for them!) were having a Day of Silence. They were exercising their right to free speech. Whether you like it or not, that means that other students have the right to speech too.

    Here’s the quote you asked for from Tinker:

    The school officials banned and sought to punish petitioners for a silent, passive expression of opinion, unaccompanied by any disorder or disturbance on the part of petitioners. There is here no evidence whatever of petitioners’ interference, actual or nascent, with the schools’ work or of collision with the rights of other students to be secure and to be let alone. Accordingly, this case does not concern speech or action that intrudes upon the work of the schools or the rights of other students.

    Only a few of the 18,000 students in the school system wore the black armbands. Only five students were suspended for wearing them. There is no indication that the work of the schools or any class was disrupted. Outside the classrooms, a few students made hostile remarks to the children wearing armbands, but there were no threats or acts of violence on school premises. …

    In order for the State in the person of school officials to justify prohibition of a particular expression of opinion, it must be able to show that its action was caused by something more than a mere desire to avoid the discomfort and unpleasantness that always accompany an unpopular viewpoint.

    Nothing that has been brought to light so far shows that the schools’ work was disrupted or that the rights of other students to be secure and to be let alone occured (except your assumption that it must have happened) has been demonstrated. Even if gay students found it discomforting and unpleasant, that isn’t enough to suspend the “offender.”

    And you do this sort of thing for a living? I guess that puts you in the same class as Rush Limbaugh.

    No, thankfully, it puts me in the same class as James Madison and Thomas Jefferson (though I don’t, in any way, claim their brilliance).

  99. 99
    John Pieret

    moron

    You have your right to free speech, as do I. I don’t feel “threatened” by your disparagement of me. Frankly, like any gay student and the skin head we’ve been discussing here, I have no need to engage with people who are so inarticulate as to need such childish taunts.

    Bye.

  100. 100
    Michael Heath

    John Pieret writes:

    . . . . which of the Amendments guarantees the right of an individual not to be offended? I know which one says that you have the right to speak even if you offend others.

    The 9th Amendment demands protection of our unenumerated rights.

  101. 101
    Raging Bee

    This wasn’t a class. The students (good for them!) were having a Day of Silence. They were exercising their right to free speech. Whether you like it or not, that means that other students have the right to speech too.

    That didn’t answer my question.

    And from thje quote you finally pasted:

    There is here no evidence whatever of petitioners’ interference, actual or nascent, with the schools’ work or of collision with the rights of other students to be secure and to be let alone.

    So the court DID recognize that students had a right to “be secure.” Therefore, the school had an obligation to discourage any form of speech that infringed on that right. Like, for example, racist, homophobic, or otherwise threatening messages on T-shirts.

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