Two New Student Free Speech Cases
The Supreme Court has been asked to hear two separate school free speech/censorship cases involving two very different high school students. Both cases come out of the far west and in both, the high school students were suspended by their school for wearing to school a T-shirt with language found so offensive as to violate school policy and warrant out of school suspension.
In Harper v. Poway Unified School District a student’s T-shirt read “homosexuality is shameful”, while in Juneau School Board v. Frederick, No. 06-278 a student wore “Bong Hits 4 Jesus” on his shirt. In both cases the students have appealed their suspensions under the 1st Amendment to the US Constitution. In one case the court ruled in favor of the local school and the suspension imposed. In the other case, the courts have so far ruled against the school’s suspension.
There is a split in the federal circuits which ruled on these appeals and there is reason to expect the US Supreme Court may agree to hear both cases and settle once and for all that oh so important question: exactly what language can a high school kid wear on their T-shirt?
Actually, the cases are very interesting on a number of levels – involving not only free speech but also school safety and school policy when confronted with issues involving free speech – and the question of whether the high court even agrees to decide the cases, much less what their decision(s) will be, are quite significant.