Monday, June 25, 2007


If you have read/seen the news today you might have noticed that the United States Supreme Court ruled against a Juneau, Alaska high school student who believed his First Amendment right to free speech was abridged by his Principal.

Here is the decision if you wish to read it: Morse v. Frederick (from

With apologies to my relatives in Juneau who are better versed on the facts of the case, here are the details I deem pertinent: The Olympic Torch was being run through the streets of our state's capitol. Since it was a relatively historic occasion, Juneau Douglas High School decided to let the kids go witness this event during school hours. Oh yeah, TV cameras were covering the whole thing. At this event a high school student (Frederick) held up a 14 foot banner stating "BONG HiTS 4 JESUS" which was easily visible to the cameras.

"Stating" is not the right word since "BONG HiTS 4 JESUS" is not a statement; it's gibberish. It was designed by the student as gibberish provocative enough to cause a reaction and get on TV. It did and it did. The principal (Morse) confiscated the sign and suspended the student.

I'm a very strong advocate of the freedom of speech and I'm all "let the kids dance" regarding school issues generally but I'm not at all displeased with this decision.

The principal stated that it was the "bong hits" which she deemed a pro-drug message which caused her to confiscate the sign. Others suggest she is a Christian Conservative who was all bent out of shape about the "Jesus" part of the sign. I say: who cares.

Either way Mr. Frederick, you embarrassed your school at a quasi-school event. You should have been suspended. Your sign should have been confiscated.

Similar to Don Imus, if your inappropriate actions embarrass your boss (or your school) there should be consequences - not criminal consequences, just administrative consequences. There is a huge difference.

The First Amendment is essential to our freedom but it is not a free pass to do as you please at all times.

I cannot, for example, wear a "Fuck The Police" shirt at work. First, the language is unacceptable in a professional work environment. If I cleaned up the language it would still be inappropriate, no matter whether it was cleaned up literally or figuratively.

"Have Intercourse With The Police" might be a way of life for some of my coworkers but the statement on a garment would still would falls short of professionalism. "Question The Authority Of The Police" would also not be a great statement to wear at work. My boss, who by the way IS THE GOVERNMENT (just like a school district) has every right to administratively step on my neck if I wear such a shirt at work or even with a group of coworkers at a police sponsored event. Heck, I'm not supposed to shop in my uniform, even if on the way to or from work. Luckily I wouldn't dream of such a thing since I look a little like Boss Hogg wearing Roscoe P. Coultrane's clothes wearing my light blue uniform.

Mr. Frederick is attending college and I wish him well. I'm sure he is disappointed that the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against him but I think he should be happy that they did not have to power to lay some real justice on him: sentence him to a career in secondary school administration.

Please weigh in.


Jas said...

I wish to evoke the spirit of Uncle George.

There are ways to be showy and still be classy. There are ways to write signs, or letters, and confuse enough that people think you are complimenting them, even though you are saying that they live in a brothel and their mother is a 10 dollar whore.

Uncle George wrote letters to the editor, free speech, that weren't offensive, or embarrassing, but were smart, and required the reader to understand. The casual observer dismissed most of the letters as text.
The enlightened reader laughed as the paper would publish insults that were far worse than profanity.

If this kid, *kid*, had done something smart, that wasn't obvious and overt, but subtle, and much more understated, I'd have sympathy, and perhaps even admiration.

Bong Hits 4 Jesus?

I think that pretty much sums up what he has to say about things, not to mention probably also exemplifies what most of his "collegiate" activities will entail.

He'll likely have kids someday, if he ever moves out of his parents' basement, and gets a job. He'll have some explaining to do then.

smussyolay said...

i don't know your uncle george. but i dig that kind of person.

however, i also respect your low class dumbass.

here would be my question. were the kids going back to class? if not, i'd argue that they were let go early to witness this special event, thus they were not on school grounds. they don't "represent" anything other than themselves. period. thus, their free speech once again becomes their own.

if the kids were going back to class, then they're still under school rules. if not, then he should be in the free and clear, imo.

but that's me...

smussyolay said...

correction: i respect your low class dumbass' right to free speech.

Eric said...

I think he is attending some college or another and is studying for a year in China.

And one of the things the US Supreme Court (and did I mention it was THE US Supreme Court ... you would think they would have better things to do) had to decide was whether this was a school-related event.

I think the decision hinged on the fact that (and I am not making this up) the SCHOOL BAND ATTENDED.

Also where were the parents in all of this. I can only imagine my father saying "YOU were the dumbass who held up the banner, take yoru suspension and lets not get into the paper again, eh?" or words to that effect. But nooooo. Jimminy Smartass had parents who said "sure, let's take this as high as it goes."

Eric said...

To update, the case actually turned on whether "bong hits" was a pro-drug message.

However a dissenting opinion by Stephen Breyer (my favorite justice - no kidding) pointed out that the principal had plenty of right to suspend the student anyway (disruptive behavior, etc) so that the freedom of speech issue was moot.