I stumbled upon an article in the New York times today about a student who was suspended for 10 days in 2002 when he held up a sign that said "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" at and Olympic Torch event. Over the past 5 years his teenage angst has sparked great debate in schools and ultimately in the Supreme Court about the freedom of speech.
Regardless of the details of the particular case (the student happened to not even be on school property) it begins the conversation about the rights our students have when they come into our classroom and how far we have to go to censor them. I think a lot of us, especially in the secondary realm, want to use blogs and all of us want to post our student's work online. But, how far do we have to go to make sure that what is attached to the district's site is appropriate and who ultimately decides.
Chief Justice, John G. Roberts Jr., said, "the First Amendment does not require schools to tolerate at school events student expression that contributes to those dangers." So, the student is in some waypromoting something seen to be dangerous then its unacceptable . Justice Thomas, who did not sign the Chief Justice's opinion, argued that "it cannot seriously be suggested that the First Amendment ‘freedom of speech’ encompasses a student’s right to speak in public schools."
As we move into a place that allows our students to produce thought for a world-wide audience, I think its important to reflect on the opinions brought forth in this case. This is an old battle that may find a new proving ground if we do not at least begin to ponder about our own place and stance on the issue.