Among both parties was a pervasive contention to the facts of the case; agreements as to facts were limited to but a few details, with the focus of contention being the intention behind the allegedly pernicious message “Bong Hits 4 Jesus,” displayed by the respondent, 18-year-old Joseph Frederick at an Olympics torch-passing ceremony on a public sidewalk opposite school premises. Then-principal of the school, Deborah Morse, alleges the banner was inimical to the school’s anti-drug policy, and its recently intensified efforts to curb drug use amongst students.
The school board alleges that the event was school sponsored, though not staged on school premises, as school funding had been utilized to organize the event, and therefore, regulations student speech were applicable. Contrary to these claims the respondent, Joseph Frederick asserts that his banner was not intended to promote or condone drug use, but was an innocuous statement aimed at garnering media attention. Further assertions on part of respondent include challenge to the applicability of student speech regulation, on basis of the falsity of the claim that said event was a school affair.
Given both sides’ incongruous stipulation of facts, the Court must decide whether the concerned is a matter cogent enough to be presented before the Supreme Court and thereby rendered into a representation of the student speech regulations schools may exercise lawfully. It is to be considered whether the issue at hand represents a pertinent question of student speech rights within the ambit of the First Amendment, given Frederick’s intention of levity, and absence of any intent of genuine expression of his viewpoint on political or social agenda. However, the cases of Tinker v. Des Moines Indep.
Cmty. Sch. Dist. , 393 U. S. 503 (1969) and Guiles v. Marineau, 461 F. 3d 320 (2d. Cir. 2006) need be cited to establish whether the intent of the respondent need be considered in this case. In both the above cases, schools found issue with the representation of political messages on articles of clothing of the students in question, and the courts determined the offensive nature, or lack thereof of said articles of clothing by considering the impression at first sight, i. e. , the message of the students was inferred based on the representation on their respective articles of clothing.
In the case of Guiles, it was the depiction of then-US president George W. Bush bearing the body of a chicken alongside drugs that was interpreted as an anti-drug criticism of a US president, and the Court found this to be a right safeguarded within the ambit of the First Amendment. Taking similar apprehension of the issue of Frederick’s banner, it must be interpreted at first impression, and regard cannot be paid to the intent at jest underlying its display. Furthermore, the respondent asserts the message was intended at exercising free speech, but as was found in the ruling to Tinker v.
Des Moines Independent Community School District, 393 U. S. 503 (1969), the burden of proof lies on the school administration to demonstrate a detriment to or disruption of the school’s educational aims posed by the dissemination of a message propagated under free speech. The display of the message, though alleged by the respondent Joseph Frederick to have been pursued in jest, does pose a serious question to the authority of school administration over the abridgment of students’ Constitutional rights.
The levity underlying the message does not alleviate the question as to whether the display of a political or social slogan poses any real, imminent, tangible threat to school order, sufficient to justify the school’ abridgment of students’ fundamental rights. This opens up the question of whether the teleological outcome of free speech need always be preempted in order to constitute basis for the restriction of such free speech, in which case the First Amendment would be relegated to nothing but a farcical “protection” of citizens’ right to express their social, political or religious opinions.
Conversely, it need also be considered that the right to free speech under the First Amendment is not absolute, and in certain cases such as defamation and conspiracy to produce social or economic change via violence, the Government reserves the right to restrict citizens’ free speech. The lack of seriousness behind the message does not ameliorate the pressing nature of the issue and its pertinence to students and school officials at large, and therefore, it is not only serious messages that should be considered by the Court.
Having cited the precedents of the cases of Tinker v. Des Moines Indep. Cmty. Sch. Dist. , 393 U. S. 503 (1969) and Guiles v. Marineau, 461 F. 3d 320 (2d. Cir. 2006), we establish that messages are interpreted at face value and first impression, and that if a school can prove that a message, serious or otherwise, poses sufficient threat to school order or spirit to warrant an abridgment of First Amendment rights, then First Amendment laws need not only be made for serious messages, but may be made to regulate humorous messages propagated in the school environment.
Bibliography: Eugene Volokh, What Did Morse v. Frederick Do to the Free Speech Rights of Students Enrolled in K-12 Schools? http://volokh. com/posts/1182830987. shtml Guiles v. Marineau, 461 F. 3d 320 (2d. Cir. 2006) Tinker v. Des Moines Indep. Cmty. Sch. Dist. , 393 U. S. 503 (1969)