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On May 22, a coalition led by the American Jewish Committee and the Religious Freedom Project/First Amendment Center released Harassment, Bullying, and Free Expression: Guidelines for Free and Safe Public Schools. While we welcome the opportunity to keep the anti-bullying conversation going, this particular entrée has a problem.
Earlier this month, the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reaffirmed the right of public school students to criticize school policies. The First Amendment Center:
A three-judge panel agreed that school officials in Watson Chapel, Ark., violated the constitutional rights of three students in 2006 who were disciplined for wearing black armbands or wristbands to school to protest a new policy enforcing school uniforms, and for handing out a flier objecting to the policy.
The administrators agreed in court that the student protest did not disrupt classes or order at the school.
The 8th Circuit panel said that despite restrictive decisions since it was handed down, including the 2007 Supreme Court decision in the so-called "Bong Hits for Jesus" case, "Tinker remains good law." Students in both Tinker and the Watson Chapel case were exercising a right of protest against a government policy — something officials in every school ought to celebrate by example, not denigrate.
I was canvassing in Louisiana in favor of the restoration of the Gulf Coast. While doing so, I encountered certain ordinances or other restrictive regulations that restrict access to housing in certain areas, like closed subdivisions or limit access at certain times. I believe that having an executive government in place at the federal level that tries so hard to keep information from its citizens, allowing these type of restrictions that negatively impact canvassers's ability to disseminate information to the public is very bad. Since it seems to be local government bodies and public officials that have either put these restrictions into place directly or else have allowed them to be adopted, we need to take a closer look to see if these actions run afoul of the First Amendment.
Syndicated columnist and fearless first amendment advocate Molly Ivins passed away last night, due to breast cancer, at the age of 62. She will be missed.
Always the muckraker, as the Texas Observer says, her enduring message is "raise more hell."
Her last column, Bubba, we -- yes, we --have to stop the war now is here.