Patterico's Pontifications


Today’s School-Related First Amendment Controversy

Filed under: Crime,General — Patterico @ 7:04 pm

Should a school district be allowed to kick a student out of student government after he called school officials “douchebags” on his personal blog?

My question: are they? (Douchebags, that is.)

24 Responses to “Today’s School-Related First Amendment Controversy”

  1. Sure, why not.

    Obama über alles!!!!! (48dd5e)

  2. My question: do you want the next generation of kids to grow up thinking that calling any authority figure a “douchebag” has no consequences except to make one popular and successful.

    Indythinker (11dc9f)

  3. Sorry the post came down for a second. Glitch. Fixed now.

    Patterico (cc3b34)

  4. “Congress shall pass no laws …”

    Some idiot kid gets booted then he got a valuable lesson on getting along in life .. kiss a little ass if you want to succeed.

    Obama über alles!!!!! (48dd5e)

  5. … or at least don’t kick it in the balls.

    Obama über alles!!!!! (48dd5e)

  6. It depends … was said douchebag, in fact, a douchebag?

    JD (e53eae)

  7. Calling an official a douchebag is the highest form of patriotism

    Thomas Jefferson (24a512)

  8. #7 The irony will be lost on the Libtards assuming the School Official is a Libtard.

    Obama über alles!!!!! (48dd5e)

  9. The First Amendment is a very slippery thing. It is difficult to get a firm grasp on it. We have pornographers who think it allows them to produce and exhibit everything they want. And they’re wrong. We have educational institutions which believe they can have absolute control over students’ speech. And they’re wrong.

    There’s the ordeal in Philly I believe. Insert-adj-here Dana or someone else can verify, likely. A student had a website (I don’t know if it was a blog or not) with a pic of the principle morphing into Hitler. On that web-site, the student listed reasons why his math teacher deserved assassination. He also used his site to try to raise the funds to hire a hit-man. The school expelled him. The parents sued, claiming the school violated their toxic child’s First Amendment rights. And the court actually claimed they might have a case. I don’t know how it turned out, but I hope some judge grew a brain cell and threw it out.

    I haven’t seen the blog referred to in this question. But everyone has First Amendment protection so far as it doesn’t rise to the “yelling fire in a crowded theatre” antics, or other antics not suggested within the First Amendment, such as reasonable decency violations.

    The pronouncement mentioned in the thread header would not be protected under the First Amendment 60 years ago. That pronouncement, while offensive to the likes of me, is protected today. I fully expect that wasn’t the only offensive speech the student used in his blog. But if it wasn’t overtly obscene by today’s standards, and I highly doubt it was, and if it wasn’t an attempt to recruit someone to cause bodily harm, it should be protected free speech, no matter how emotionally deleterious the comment.

    If, on the other hand, he brought the material into the school and interfered with the education of any other students, that is a different matter entirely. School disruption is not a free-speech right.

    As I said, the First Amendment is very slippery.

    John Hitchcock (fb941d)

  10. The truth should be an absolute defense in such a situation. Had he been calling Hacks a douchebag, clearly it would be protected speech.

    JD (e53eae)

  11. I don’t know that speech has anything to do with it. If the kid thinks the school officials are douchebags, why should they want to work with him in student government activities? Just to give him another chance to demonstrate his contempt of them in other ways?

    nk (e8cae4)

  12. It sounds like the kid posted on facebook. I don’t see the schools right to so much as READ the kids facebook let alone punish him for his postings there.

    This is not an editorial in a school newspaper or at a school sponsored function (football, ect.).

    It is his opinion of the school function published in a public space.

    If the kid were to dispute a point of history or criticize the obamasiah on his personal blog do they feel they have the right to sanction/punish him for those thoughts too?

    If he had written his criticism as an editorial to the local paper do they think they have the right to punish him because he attends their publicly supported/mandated institution?

    The school is full of it.

    MaaddMaaxx (34d366)

  13. It depends … was said douchebag, in fact, a douchebag?

    Yeah, that’s what I meant to be saying when I asked: are they? Maybe that wasn’t very clear.

    Patterico (cc3b34)

  14. Grrr

    principle principal

    I hate when I do that.

    John Hitchcock (fb941d)

  15. Two comments on this:

    1. The term “douchebag” is way overused. I am a fan of the wonderful site Hot Chicks with Douchebags and I think we really need to reserve the term for the types of people exemplified on that site. I somehow doubt the school officials qualify.

    2. I wonder what the parents of this kid would think if a school official’s personal blog referred to the kid as “a little jerk-off.”. Surely the First Amendment should cut both ways (though I guess I could be persuaded that the authority figure — in this case the school official — have a higher duty to avoid this type of behavior).

    JVW (3e9492)

  16. MaaadMaax is right but it will be a good lesson for the student if he really is interested in going into politics. Don’t say anything you don’t want heard.

    EdWood (c8039c)

  17. He didn’t do it at school, or at a school-sponsored event? Then it’s none of the school’s business.

    aphrael (9e8ccd)

  18. The kid should give the entire faculty a glass of vinegar and water. Maybe that’s too subtle….

    Steverino (b12c49)

  19. Given the school’s claim that the action was based on the students vulgarity and in the interests of civil discourse in the school setting, I would have to know what limits the same school officials place on speech directed at others.

    For example, had the student made the same comments about Dick Cheney would the school have taken identical action? Have they tolerated worse on campus? Etc. My suspicion is that their objections have more to do with whom the speech was directed at than their claimed worry over its tone.

    Kevin Murphy (0b2493)

  20. By removing him from student government over it, aren’t they just confirming that they are indeed douchebags?

    Bob Loblaw (6d485c)

  21. I would like to point out that truth is a defense:

    “And we can demonstrate that, your honor: everybody thinks they’re douchebages.”

    Jack (d9cbc5)

  22. I believe that most student-government positions are awarded after some sort of election process; i.e., the students that are going to be represented actually vote for their representatives. It’s a form of education about the process of civics, sort of like a national election. Now the school administration has apparently decided to overturn the decision of the voters because they don’t like the behavior of the winner.

    Elections don’t work that way – the winner gets the position that he/she ran for, and the only way to reverse that situation is at the ballot box in the next election, or by a legal process to impeach or recall the elected official. The administration doesn’t get the unilateral opportunity to overturn the election results.

    Imagine if the results of the last national election were ignored/overturned because someone didn’t appreciate the way the winner(s) have behaved since winning. We’d never have any government whatsoever.

    Perhaps the students should seek to overturn the principal’s employment contract, since they don’t seem to like his behavior. Ooops, I forgot – there’s a little thing called tenure in most school districts. Imagine that – the principal is bullet-proofed, yet he/she seems to think that any of the students can be second-guessed at any time.

    Sounds like a power trip to me. Even though I think the student in question is probably as much a douchebag as the principal, only the principal seems to have gotten the chance to actually make his opinion have weight.

    drew (6416f7)

  23. more than likly they are douch bags why should they be any differnt than other schools

    debbie (48b514)

  24. FWIW, the student is a she. And this happened in 2007.

    I think personal blogs should be off-limits (assuming no threats, etc.). Seems a real slippery slope.

    The problem in this case seems to be that the student was inciting other students to protest a particular course of action, and called school officials “douche bags” in the process. So she was kicked out of student government. I wonder if the forum was the problem…would they have done the same if she had said the same in person at some kind of off-campus gathering instead of posting it online?

    And just to play devil’s advocate, if a school official had called the student council “douche bags” in a public forum, wouldn’t it seem fair if there were repercussions for him?

    Tom (fd0896)

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