Monday, June 25, 2007

Did Supreme Court Squash Student Free Speech?

The Supreme Court voted 6-3 that Joseph Frederick’s suspension over flying his banner, “Bong Hits 4 Jesus,” did not violate his freedom of speech.

It’s certainly a tough call. On one hand, it can be said that Frederick was punished by given a suspension for flying the banner on a public sidewalk across the school in January of 2002, as the Olympic torch relay was moving through the Alaska capital for the Winter Games.

On the other hand, are schools allowed to limit messages that advocate illegal drug use?

There comes a time where one has to decide that the health and welfare of teenagers are important and upsetting their “freedom of speech” is a price to be paid. With so many teenagers falling victim to drugs in today’s society, it would have been irresponsible for Frederick’s teacher not to punish him for displaying the sign where his fellow students would read.

And just how important was it that Frederick felt there was an urgency to inform his fellow students and the public that Jesus wanted them to do bong hits for His Holiness?

Just like you cannot yell “fire” in a crowded movie theater, it would be also irresponsible to tell someone to do bong hits for a cause, no matter how idiotic it is.

Maybe Frederick would have more sympathy if he was a student at Eastern Michigan University and held a banner that read, “School officials lied about Laura Dickinson’s death.”

Frederick has to learn that freedom of speech comes with it a great responsibility and if misused, there is a price to be paid. It can be said that his free speech right was violated but in turn, he also violated the health rights of students by telling them to do something harmful.