RIP Philo

ken starr you little shit

From the Associated Press

WASHINGTON - A high school senior’s 14-foot banner proclaiming "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" gave the Supreme Court a provocative prop for a lively argument Monday about the extent of schools’ control over student speech.
If the justices conclude Joseph Frederick’s homemade sign was a pro-drug message, they are likely to side with principal Deborah Morse. She suspended Frederick in 2002 when he unfurled the banner across the street from the school in Juneau, Alaska.
"I thought we wanted our schools to teach something, including something besides just basic elements, including the character formation and not to use drugs," Chief Justice John Roberts said Monday.
But the court could rule for Frederick if it determines that he was, as he has contended, conducting a free-speech experiment using a nonsensical message that contained no pitch for drug use.
"It sounds like just a kid's provocative statement to me," Justice David Souter said.
Students in public schools don’t have the same rights as adults, but neither do they leave their constitutional protections at the schoolhouse gate, as the court said in a landmark speech-rights ruling from the Vietnam era.
Morse, now a Juneau schools administrator, was at the court Monday. Frederick, teaching and studying in China, was not.
Kenneth Starr in court
Former independent counsel Kenneth Starr, whose Kirkland and Ellis law firm is representing Morse for free, argued that the justices should defer to the judgment of the principal. Morse reasonably interpreted the banner as a pro-drug message, despite what Frederick intended, Starr said.
School officials are perfectly within their rights to curtail student speech that advocates drug use, he said. "The message here is, in fact, critical," Starr said.
Starr, joined by the Bush administration, also asked the court to adopt a broad rule that could essentially give public schools the right to clamp down on any speech with which they disagree. That argument did not appear to have widespread support among the justices.
March 20th, 2007 10:18pm
I don't get it. Why does it matter whether it was a pro-drug message or not? The student expressed it OUTSIDE school. It's none of their business what he expresses outside school.

In fact, I'd say it's not their business inside school either, unless the message is creating a disturbance that represents a clear and immediate danger to public safety.

Agree about Starr.
Permalink Practical Economist 
March 20th, 2007 10:57pm
He skipped school and was suspended. Now he's suing the principal saying he was suspended for free rights reasons (he skipped school but went across from school!). His suit is kinda bunk, I think.
Permalink blahty heartsheep 
March 20th, 2007 11:15pm
Do you have another article where that is mentioned? It is neither mentioned here that he skipped school, nor that that (if it did happen as you claim) had anything at all whatsoever to do with his suspension.
Permalink Practical Economist 
March 20th, 2007 11:29pm

School was dismissed for the day once students arrived because the olympic torch was passing through town. The student in question states that he was snowed in and could not get to school on time. He arrived at school later, after everyone was dismissed, and unfurled the banner across the street from school.

Sure doesn't sound like 'skipping school' to me.
Permalink Practical Economist 
March 20th, 2007 11:32pm
This is interesting:

The Bush Administration is taking Ken Starr's side against the student.

However, the religious right, including Pat Robertson, are taking the side of the student and even filing briefs in support of him.
Permalink Practical Economist 
March 20th, 2007 11:38pm
> On April 25, 2002, Frederick filed a §1983 lawsuit against Morse and the school board in the United States District Court for the District of Alaska claiming they violated his federal and state constitutional rights to free speech.

But yeah the principal's rationale was doobie-ous. (The Superintendent did cut the suspension short.) Can students ever sue school administrators in federal court though? That seems a 'kill all the lawyers' situation.

"Morse reasonably interpreted the banner as a pro-drug message, despite what Frederick intended, Starr said."

It seems reasonable not to expect the principal to be aware of all teen lingo (and to err on the safe side) yet frankly very tangential to the free-speech rights being argued (judges don't like their time to be wasted .. the student was obviously a media whore; the question is whether that is bad or not).

The justices seem to be honing in on the 'controversial' boundary in the principal's decision and whether teachers/admins/school boards/parents get the power to decide community standards in their schools.