In an op-ed published last week in the Knoxville News Sentinel, Hedy Weinberg of the ACLU of Tennessee and Catherine Crump of the national ACLU warn of the dangers of a recent Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling regarding high school speech. The case, Defoe v. Spiva, concerns the suspension of a high school student who wore Confederate flag paraphernalia to school. In finding that the suspension did not violate the student's First Amendment rights, the Sixth Circuit ruled that "school administrators can limit speech in a reasonable fashion to further important policies at the heart of public education."
As Weinberg and Crump point out, this dangerously broad grant of the power to censor to high school administrators invites obvious abuse:
By the court's reasoning, a school in a liberal community that believes that support for gay rights is an "important policy" will be able to ban anti-gay T-shirts. And a school in a conservative community that teaches abstinence-only sex education could forbid students from expressing contrary views if the school believes that abstinence is "important."
The idea that schools can ban the expression of views that run contrary to "important" educational objectives is foreign - and hostile ...