20 March 2007

Bong Hits 4 Jesus

In January 2002, the Olympic torch was carried through Juneau, Alaska en route to the games in Salt Lake City. Joseph Frederick was a senior at Juneau-Douglas High School at the time. Students were allowed to attend the local torch ceremonies, even though they were going on during school hours. Mr. Frederick was late to school that day due to snow, but was able to make it to the ceremony by walking. Whereupon he and a few classmates unfurled a 14-foot banner reading "BONG HITS 4 JESUS" just as the torch and a television crew passed.

His principal, Deborah Morse, told Mr. Frederick to remove the banner. He refused. She took down the banner and suspended him for 10 days. Mr. Frederick appealed her decision.

Oral argument was heard yesterday in Morse v. Frederick in the United States Supreme Court.

Now, I haven't made my way through the arguments yet, nor have I read through both side's petitions (student here, school district here), but when did a case of teen-aged impudence rise to the federal level?

I think what the kid did was frickin' hilarious, but the rule was and is, if you're gonna be a smack, take the heat. The kid got a great score with the banner hitting just as the TV crew went by. Serve your suspension with dignity.

The school won the first appeal to the school superintendant, but the suspension was reduced to eight days; then won in federal district court, where they were taken by Mr. Frederick for surpressing his First Amendment rights (under 42 U.S.C. § 1983), which was applicable because, he claims, that he wasn't at a "school sponsored event."

Mr. Frederick then appealed the district court's decision where he won. The case was remanded to the district court by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals saying that Mr. Frederick's First Amendment rights were violated and that Ms. Morse could be held financially liable for her actions. Part of the appeal to the Supremes is that she is covered by "qualified immunity."

Like I said, I think what the kid did was hilarious. I think a ten-day suspension was probably a bit much (especially when one of the other kids only got five days and Mr. Frederick claims that he was only given five days; he quoted Thomas Jefferson in protest, then he got slapped with five more). I would absolutely love to be a fly on the wall in the Supreme's chambers when they discuss this one.

A decision should be issued by June.

06 March 2007

The Age Demanded

The age demanded that we sing
And cut away our tongue.

The age demanded that we flow
And hammered in the bung.

The age demanded that we dance
And jammed us into iron pants.

And in the end the age was handed
The sort of shit that it demanded.

--Earnest Hemingway, 1922