"Bong Hits 4 Jesus" going to Supreme Court
Filed under: Day Care & Education
In 2002, Joseph Frederick, then a senior in high school, was suspended after unveiling a 14 foot banner that read "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" -- timed to coincide with the Olympic torch relay that was passing through town. Frederick and his family subsequently filed a lawsuit, arguing that the suspension violated his First Amendment rights.
For better or for worse, the Supreme Court has ruled on a number of occasions that schools are not required to uphold the same standards of free-speech as everyone else, but Frederick wasn't technically at school. He was on a public sidewalk at a school-sponsored event, which according the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, California, is a significant difference. They ruled that, even if the banner promoted illegal drug use, it's appearance off school grounds didn't disrupt the school's educational mission, and was therefore allowed.
I'm inclined to agree. While I understand that schools must have the authority to curb certain kinds of speech on campus (like hate speech, for instance), the young man in question was in a public place. Any of the students that witnessed Frederick's promotion of marijuana use (oh, the horror), could just as easily have heard that message from some adult who the school had no control over. So what if it's a school-sponsored event? Sounds to me like the administrators were just embarrassed.
What do you think? Was the suspension out of line? Do you agree with the way schools in your area handle free speech?