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Old 26th February 2013, 01:57 PM   #1
Dessi
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Under ACLU pressure, Connecticut school allows student to wear anti-gay shirt

Somewhat interesting case here, from ABC News:

Quote:
The lawyer for the school district this month wrote to the American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut, saying Wolcott High School student Seth Groody may wear the T-shirt, which bears a slash mark through a rainbow. The other side showed a male and female stick figure holding hands above the message "Excessive Speech Day," the ACLU of Connecticut said.

The ACLU said Groody wore the shirt April 20, which was designated as a day of awareness of harassment toward gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people. [. . .]

The ACLU prepared a lawsuit to be filed in federal court demanding that the school district be stopped from enforcing its T-shirt ban and that no disciplinary measures be taken against Groody.

Without elaborating, school lawyer Christine Chinni wrote to the ACLU on Feb. 14, saying Groody may wear the T-shirt. She declined to comment beyond what she wrote in the letter.
I think the ACLU got it wrong here. Students don't have unlimited free speech in public schools, there are many acceptable instances where schools will ask students to remove clothing intended to provoke or intimidate others. Off the top of my head:

- shirts with the f-bomb scrawled on it
- shirts with overtly racist messages, like putting a slash over a mix-race couple, or containing a message of "White Pride"
- shirts with gang-related messages, or dressing in a gang-affiliated style

A shirt with an anti-gay message is intended to provoke, intimidate, and malign LGBT students and allies. I believe the school was absolutely right to have the student remove the shirt.
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Old 26th February 2013, 02:08 PM   #2
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I say let him wear the shirt. It says much about him, nothing about gays.
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Old 26th February 2013, 02:09 PM   #3
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True freedom of speech means allowing speech you don't like as well as the stuff you do.
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Old 26th February 2013, 02:12 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by PhantomWolf View Post
True freedom of speech means allowing speech you don't like as well as the stuff you do.
I agree, to an extent;


IF the school ALSO allowed pro gay shirts then yes, he should be allowed to wear it as long as there were no swear words or anything.

If they DON'T allow pro gay shirts then I think they screwed up.

That being said, I seriously doubt the ACLU would've backed the kid's "anti gay" shirt stance if pro gay shirts weren't already allowed.
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Old 26th February 2013, 02:15 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by StankApe View Post
I agree, to an extent;


IF the school ALSO allowed pro gay shirts then yes, he should be allowed to wear it as long as there were no swear words or anything.

If they DON'T allow pro gay shirts then I think they screwed up.

That being said, I seriously doubt the ACLU would've backed the kid's "anti gay" shirt stance if pro gay shirts weren't already allowed.
From the little I have been able to discover about this, it appears that the school was permitting pro-gay shirts.
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Old 26th February 2013, 02:16 PM   #6
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I guess I'm ok with schools limiting/banning offensive free speech on clothing.
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Old 26th February 2013, 02:16 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by PhantomWolf View Post
True freedom of speech means allowing speech you don't like as well as the stuff you do.
Actually I'm going to take this further.

Consider this, should an Atheist student be told to remove a T-Shirt with a slash through a cross and the words "God is Dead - Nietzsche" on the back because it is clearly an anti-religious message is intended to provoke, intimidate, and malign Christian students and allies?

How about a Christian student wearing a T-Shirt with a slash through Darwin and the words "Darwin is Dead" on the back because it is clearly an anti-evolution message is intended to provoke, intimidate, and malign Atheist (and biology) students and allies?

Where does it stop? Do students wearing heavy metal T-Shirts have to remove them so as not to offend those that find heavy metal offensive?

Yes the T-Shirt was offensive, yes it was targeted to cause upset, but that is what Freedom of Speech allows for. If you ban all speech that is offensive and can cause upset to someone, no-one is ever going to be allowed to speak again.
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Old 26th February 2013, 02:18 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by Dessi View Post
...instances where schools will ask students to remove clothing...
Wow, you're right... we really better do something about that. We certainly can't have naked students walking around, now can we?

...especially with all those perverted teachers you hear about now and then.



...but from a serious standpoint, no.

Just no.

Freedom of expression is all inclusive, and this is the type of thinking that got us public school uniforms in some places. I can't support any such restriction, and would have to side with the ACLU in this matter. If the kid wants to show off the fact that he's a complete jerk, it is his right to do so. A private school would of course be able to restrict such things, but a public school is a government entity.

I'm not so sure it isn't "freedom of the press" that should be cited here, rather than speech though. Speech is required to be restricted at times... due to the simple fact that you can't hear a designated speaker if someone is shouting in the audience. Such things don't apply to visual expressions unless someone is actively blocking your view (or passing a note in class and thus actively distracting you).

Of course, a word or two from the faculty about the inappropriate nature of the message would not be out of the question. The use of force or discipline is as inappropriate as the message in this case. It's not like we can't tell the kid that it's inappropriate or -quietly, with as little malice as possible- denounce him in front of his peers without resorting to actual force. A teacher that doesn't know how to deal with these things without resorting to disciplinary procedures doesn't deserve to call him/herself a teacher.

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Old 26th February 2013, 02:19 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by 16.5 View Post
From the little I have been able to discover about this, it appears that the school was permitting pro-gay shirts.
Pro-gay isn't offensive, just as pro-Christian slogans isn't offensive to non-Christians. It'll always be an arbitrary judgment call, sort of like the definition of porn, though ("you know it when you see it".)
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Old 26th February 2013, 02:21 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by kellyb View Post
I guess I'm ok with schools limiting/banning offensive free speech on clothing.
but then you get into "what is offensive?"

if you eliminate foul language, and gory images you are left with IDEAS! and whose POV get's to determine the validity of the idea?

person A is offended by pro-gay shirts

person B is offended by anti-gay shirts


I don't think it's anyone's place to limit the expression of ideas, even if they find them repulsive or wrong.

either ban all of em (which IMO would be the best course of action)

or allow all of them
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Old 26th February 2013, 02:22 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by kellyb View Post
Pro-gay isn't offensive, just as pro-Christian slogans isn't offensive to non-Christians. It'll always be an arbitrary judgment call, sort of like the definition of porn, though ("you know it when you see it".)
The conclusion that "pro-gay isn't offensive" isn't something that you would like to take to the mat with many, many school boards that I can think of.
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Old 26th February 2013, 02:25 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by PhantomWolf View Post
Actually I'm going to take this further.

Consider this, should an Atheist student be told to remove a T-Shirt with a slash through a cross and the words "God is Dead - Nietzsche" on the back because it is clearly an anti-religious message is intended to provoke, intimidate, and malign Christian students and allies?

How about a Christian student wearing a T-Shirt with a slash through Darwin and the words "Darwin is Dead" on the back because it is clearly an anti-evolution message is intended to provoke, intimidate, and malign Atheist (and biology) students and allies?

Where does it stop? Do students wearing heavy metal T-Shirts have to remove them so as not to offend those that find heavy metal offensive?

Yes the T-Shirt was offensive, yes it was targeted to cause upset, but that is what Freedom of Speech allows for. If you ban all speech that is offensive and can cause upset to someone, no-one is ever going to be allowed to speak again.
That just kind of seems like an abuse of slippery-slope arguing. You can ban the extremes and make (admittedly imperfect) judgment calls on on the middle of the road, ambiguous stuff.
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Old 26th February 2013, 02:26 PM   #13
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Most schools have a ban against "disruptive" clothing.

Yes, that can lead to problems, but generally it allows the school to keep the focus on school.
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Old 26th February 2013, 02:27 PM   #14
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Not to get all "in my day..." but seriously, in my day we never had crap like this happen. If there were issues the school just said "you can't wear that" and you moved on. This litigious society we live in is a bit retarded.

Not to mention that so many districts have gone to uniforms to limit their exposure to such things.
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Old 26th February 2013, 02:28 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by 16.5 View Post
The conclusion that "pro-gay isn't offensive" isn't something that you would like to take to the mat with many, many school boards that I can think of.
True, but there's just no reasoning with some people (who also tend to cluster in like-minded geographical areas.) I don't think that's a reason to argue for either a total ban on anything controversial or a polarizing "slogan free for all" in schools (although I'd prefer the former to the latter.)
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Old 26th February 2013, 02:31 PM   #16
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Originally Posted by StankApe View Post
but then you get into "what is offensive?"

if you eliminate foul language, and gory images you are left with IDEAS! and whose POV get's to determine the validity of the idea?

person A is offended by pro-gay shirts

person B is offended by anti-gay shirts


I don't think it's anyone's place to limit the expression of ideas, even if they find them repulsive or wrong.

either ban all of em (which IMO would be the best course of action)

or allow all of them
Ban them all might be the best. I still like to think some rule about "Intent to malign some group" could be possible and ideal. I'd like to see some degree of freedom of expression, even if it's messy and imperfect and often unfair.
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Old 26th February 2013, 02:31 PM   #17
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Originally Posted by kellyb View Post
True, but there's just no reasoning with some people (who also tend to cluster in like-minded geographical areas.) I don't think that's a reason to argue for either a total ban on anything controversial or a polarizing "slogan free for all" in schools (although I'd prefer the former to the latter.)
the absolute opposite is also true.

If we were on a jesus site right now discussing the banning of a pro gay shirt, I bet someone could make the identical post you did above. and from their POV it would be equally is appropriate.
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Old 26th February 2013, 02:34 PM   #18
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Originally Posted by kellyb View Post
Ban them all might be the best. I still like to think some rule about "Intent to malign some group" could be possible and ideal. I'd like to see some degree of freedom of expression, even if it's messy and imperfect and often unfair.
I think they should just put something in there that says "not allowed to wear any shirt that might cause a disruption, be it political,religious or otherwise, school officials reserve the right to determine the appropriateness of clothing and if said garment is deemed inappropriate the student will be sent home to change or a replacement must be brought to the school . So use your best judgment"

I don't really dig on high school kids making political or religious statements at school anyway. regardless of how much I may agree/disagree with any particular statement they might make. save that stuff for college.
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Old 26th February 2013, 02:35 PM   #19
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Originally Posted by StankApe View Post
the absolute opposite is also true.

If we were on a jesus site right now discussing the banning of a pro gay shirt, I bet someone could make the identical post you did above. and from their POV it would be equally is appropriate.
I don't see what you mean?

Everyone here agrees that a logo of a cross with a "no" symbol around it would be offensive, and "Yay Jesus!" slogans, etc is not necessarily intended to offend and should be allowable?
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Old 26th February 2013, 02:37 PM   #20
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Originally Posted by StankApe View Post
IF the school ALSO allowed pro gay shirts then yes, he should be allowed to wear it as long as there were no swear words or anything.
If schools allow students to wear shirts supporting racial equality with black power slogans, then obviously schools should allow students to wear shirts opposing racial equality with white power slogans.

If schools allow students to wear shirts with a "Never forget 9/11" motto, then obviously schools should allow students to wear shirts idolizing Osama bin Laden.

Oops, chain of logic that broke down quickly.

I understand where you're coming from, but opposite views are not necessarily equal. Schools have a serious interest promoting the safety and respect of their LGBT students, just like racial minorities and disabled students, and opposing others attempts to provoke or marginalize them.
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Old 26th February 2013, 02:38 PM   #21
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Originally Posted by kellyb View Post
I don't see what you mean?

Everyone here agrees that a logo of a cross with a "no" symbol around it would be offensive, and "Yay Jesus!" slogans, etc is not necessarily intended to offend and should be allowable?
to some people a pro-gay shirt is offensive. the fact that you disagree doesn't change their POV.

so it's no more right or wrong to pick one side and not allow the other.

If his shirt said "death to queers" or something truly offensive I would agree with you. but if one person is free to say "yes I support this" then another must be free to say "no I don't"


as stated above: what if person A wore a darwin inside circle slash and person B got told they could not wear a shirt with a cross inside a circle slash?
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Old 26th February 2013, 02:43 PM   #22
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Originally Posted by StankApe View Post
If his shirt said "death to queers" or something truly offensive I would agree with you. but if one person is free to say "yes I support this" then another must be free to say "no I don't"
I agree. Threats of physical harm, gore or obscenity are banned in (almost) all schools. Banning something that is just an opinion goes against everything that education is supposed to be about. Why do some people not like gays? Let's talk about it.

Disclosure: big gay here....and an educator.
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Old 26th February 2013, 02:46 PM   #23
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Originally Posted by Dessi View Post
If schools allow students to wear shirts supporting racial equality with black power slogans, then obviously schools should allow students to wear shirts opposing racial equality with white power slogans.

If schools allow students to wear shirts with a "Never forget 9/11" motto, then obviously schools should allow students to wear shirts idolizing Osama bin Laden.

Oops, chain of logic that broke down quickly.

I understand where you're coming from, but opposite views are not necessarily equal. Schools have a serious interest promoting the safety and respect of their LGBT students, and opposing others attempts to provoke or marginalize them.
nope, I think they SHOULD allow people to wear white power and truther shirts if they allow black power and never forget shirts. that IS equality of ideas.

you are making the fatal error of thinking that a particular POV is more equal than others. it isn't. it may be right for you (and right in a moral way from your belief system)


abhorrent beliefs that are expressed without swearing or hate words are protected and equally viable.
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Old 26th February 2013, 02:46 PM   #24
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Originally Posted by StankApe View Post
to some people a pro-gay shirt is offensive. the fact that you disagree doesn't change their POV.
Actually, I don't think they're offended - I think they're just accustomed to radically biased laws and their enforcement.

They just want to enforce theocratic laws favoring their religion.
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Old 26th February 2013, 02:48 PM   #25
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Originally Posted by Alt+F4 View Post
I agree. Threats of physical harm, gore or obscenity are banned in (almost) all schools. Banning something that is just an opinion goes against everything that education is supposed to be about. Why do some people not like gays? Let's talk about it.

Disclosure: big gay here....and an educator.
darn those big gay educators!!!!!!!!!!!!






I'm glad to see you comment here, it's very hard for people to "get" sometimes that though their POV may be obviously (to them) the proper way to feel on an issue, it isn't the only one and by limiting the voice of opposition one can quickly move to a tyranny of ideas.


best let the bigots rant out in the open where you can spot em
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Old 26th February 2013, 02:50 PM   #26
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Originally Posted by Dessi View Post
I understand where you're coming from, but opposite views are not necessarily equal. Schools have a serious interest promoting the safety and respect of their LGBT students, and opposing others attempts to provoke or marginalize them.
Opposite views are equal if they are just that....views. No indication in this case that the safety of any LGBT student was compromised. LGBT students don't earn respect if that is attempted to be forced down the throats of those who don't accept it. As an out gay person since 1982 no one's opinion of me can marginalize me, only I can do that; and the sooner that teenagers realize that, the better off they will be.
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Old 26th February 2013, 02:53 PM   #27
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Originally Posted by Alt+F4 View Post
Opposite views are equal if they are just that....views. No indication in this case that the safety of any LGBT student was compromised. LGBT students don't earn respect if that is attempted to be forced down the throats of those who don't accept it. As an out gay person since 1982 no one's opinion of me can marginalize me, only I can do that; and the sooner that teenagers realize that, the better off they will be.
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Old 26th February 2013, 02:58 PM   #28
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Originally Posted by StankApe View Post
nope, I think they SHOULD allow people to wear white power and truther shirts if they allow black power and never forget shirts. that IS equality of ideas.
Good god, no. Someone wearing white power or pro-terror shirts would be removed from school post-haste. I understand your comment about equality of ideas, as a general principle, but we're talking about students in a public school.

My right to dress in any manner on the street does not carry over to high school chem class. There's no precedent for the view that students have unlimited free speech in schools, that's why almost every school has a dress code which prohibits students from wearing disruptive and provocative clothing.
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Old 26th February 2013, 03:01 PM   #29
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that's why I think the best policy is to not allow kids to wear ANY political, religious or pro/anti "cause" t-shirts. Kids need to doing school work not dictating the tenets of Chairman Mao
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Old 26th February 2013, 03:01 PM   #30
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Edit. Wrong thread.
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Old 26th February 2013, 03:02 PM   #31
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deleted as it referred to the above mis post
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Old 26th February 2013, 03:03 PM   #32
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Two things:

1. We need to protect freedom of speech on public grounds.

2. We need to maintain order & civility in our schools.

Its tough finding a good balance.
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Old 26th February 2013, 03:15 PM   #33
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Originally Posted by StankApe View Post
I think they should just put something in there that says "not allowed to wear any shirt that might cause a disruption, be it political,religious or otherwise, school officials reserve the right to determine the appropriateness of clothing and if said garment is deemed inappropriate the student will be sent home to change or a replacement must be brought to the school . So use your best judgment"

I don't really dig on high school kids making political or religious statements at school anyway. regardless of how much I may agree/disagree with any particular statement they might make. save that stuff for college.

I am going to generalize based on my own set of relevant data, but every school I ever attended, as well as all the schools my kids have attended, (at least until uniforms were voted in,) did include a "no disruptive clothing" clause in the student handbook.
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Old 26th February 2013, 03:19 PM   #34
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Originally Posted by autumn1971 View Post
I am going to generalize based on my own set of relevant data, but every school I ever attended, as well as all the schools my kids have attended, (at least until uniforms were voted in,) did include a "no disruptive clothing" clause in the student handbook.
that's been my experience as well. Maybe they don't have that, or maybe they allowed certain things at this school and never encountered this before?

Or maybe some officials were guilty of the fallacy of allowable ideas until somebody fought them with the ACLU?
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Old 26th February 2013, 03:21 PM   #35
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O.o I think the shirt's fine though I don't know if, down the road, he or she will be proud to be known as "that prick with the prick-shirt"

Also my school did not have a strong "no disruptive shirt" clause. If it did it was not enforced. The only time I remember anyone getting in trouble for a shirt was because it had blood on it. Weird guy -.- man high school has weirdo kids in it.
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Old 26th February 2013, 03:23 PM   #36
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Originally Posted by Dessi View Post
My right to dress in any manner on the street does not carry over to high school chem class. There's no precedent for the view that students have unlimited free speech in schools, that's why almost every school has a dress code which prohibits students from wearing disruptive and provocative clothing.
In the U.S. there is no "unlimited" free speech, in or out of schools. The Supreme Court decided in Tinker v. Des Monies School District that students have a right to free speech in schools.
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Old 26th February 2013, 03:48 PM   #37
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I think you're missing a key point, Dessi... and one that teenagers will admittedly miss too without a little direction.

The opposite of friend is not enemy... it's apathy. That goes for both sides of the equation.

To forcefully restrict such a thing is actually admitting that he has a point that might somehow influence others. The best way to counter is not with force, but with a strongly logical yet emotionally subdued argument to the contrary, along with the agreement that it's just fine for him to wear such a thing if that's what he truly wants.

Personally, I'd take it as an opportunity to calmly address the subject, rather than to be offended... and taking the time to single the kid out in class giving him the attention he mistakenly thought he wanted is bound to have some sort of effect, if done right.

In other words, it is very possible to use such situations to your advantage if you disagree, and if you have better debate skills than the average teenager. Usually such things start with a question or two to clarify why he wants to wear such a thing.

If our adults/teachers don't understand this, I don't know how the hell we expect to teach it to teenagers. It's actually sort of a key social skill.

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Old 26th February 2013, 04:05 PM   #38
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Originally Posted by PhantomWolf View Post
If you ban all speech that is offensive and can cause upset to someone, no-one is ever going to be allowed to speak again.

There's a difference between banning speech and banning speech during school. Public school officials are charged with keeping children safe and providing them an education. Anything that makes violence more likely or distracts other children to the point where it interferes with their education should be prohibited.

Think of it this way - the Second Amendment guarantees the right to bear arms, but few people would argue that children should be allowed to carry guns in school. Why not? Because it's dangerous. Children don't have the judgment to carry guns unsupervised. They have to be taught how to safely use them.

Same for speech.
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Old 26th February 2013, 04:16 PM   #39
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Originally Posted by Loss Leader View Post
There's a difference between banning speech and banning speech during school. Public school officials are charged with keeping children safe and providing them an education. Anything that makes violence more likely or distracts other children to the point where it interferes with their education should be prohibited.

Think of it this way - the Second Amendment guarantees the right to bear arms, but few people would argue that children should be allowed to carry guns in school. Why not? Because it's dangerous. Children don't have the judgment to carry guns unsupervised. They have to be taught how to safely use them.

Same for speech.
Unless the 2nd amendment applies to nukes and predator drones, it's more or less defunct. I don't know why we even bother to have it in there any more... it's essentially a relic of an older time. Access to guns doesn't even come close to empowering the citizenry in the way that 2nd amendment intended, and allowing access to the full scope of a modern military arsenal for each citizen would not be advisable.

(yeah, I realize that the former bit is sort of off topic; sorry)

Ultimately, I don't care much about the constitutionality anyway. I just think that there are better ways to handle such things; and I think that larger class sizes and overly strict agendas are causing our teachers to resort to discipline and regulation all to readily. The constitution is as good of a source to cite as any to demonstrate that it's the proper thing to do, but I don't consider it the "word of god" or whatever (there is no doG).

Last edited by Manopolus; 26th February 2013 at 04:40 PM.
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Old 26th February 2013, 04:38 PM   #40
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Originally Posted by Loss Leader View Post
There's a difference between banning speech and banning speech during school. Public school officials are charged with keeping children safe and providing them an education. Anything that makes violence more likely or distracts other children to the point where it interferes with their education should be prohibited.
Following this logic, the Police are charged with keeping order and public safety, thus if someone is wearing something saying or wearing something that makes violence more likely, they should be arrested and stopped from saying it.

You say schools are places for education. Which is the better message to be teaching kids? "Some people have radically different views to you, views that you may find offensive, violence and shutting down those views are not an acceptable methods of dealing with it, education and more speech is the way to do it" or "If you find something offensive, complain or threaten violence and have those who's views differ to your own shut down so they can't oppose you any longer"?

Quote:
Think of it this way - the Second Amendment guarantees the right to bear arms, but few people would argue that children should be allowed to carry guns in school. Why not? Because it's dangerous. Children don't have the judgment to carry guns unsupervised. They have to be taught how to safely use them.

Same for speech.
No not the same. Bullets have a peculiar ability to kill or seriously injure someone, words not so much, and trying to teach children "how to safely use them (words)" is nothing more then censorship and a violation of the 1st Amendment.
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