Pubdate: Wed, 21 Mar 2007
Source: Journal Times, The (Racine, WI)
Copyright: 2007 The Journal Times
Author: Mike Moore
Bookmark: (Opinion)
Bookmark: (Bong Hits 4 Jesus)
Bookmark: (Students - United States)


It's OK to push the envelope, provided something important is

I'm not sure "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" qualifies. That's the wisdom one
Alaskan high school student imparted on a banner during a field trip a
few years ago, picking a fight that's now in the U.S. Supreme Court's

I bet student protesters never expected their right to free speech
would hang on a decision like this. How will the history books look
back and summarize the landmark case of Messiah v. Munchies?

A few principals told me run-ins over student expression are fairly
rare in Racine County schools, and when they arise they're quickly
resolved. Usually the clash involves clothes. Junior can't show up in
a T-shirt bearing F-bombs or a sworn devotion to beer.

At Case High School, the staff ask that student to turn it inside out
or change into one of the extra shirts on hand.

"Most of the kids, they'll cooperate," Case Principal Tom Sager

Pushing the envelope isn't always intentional. Burlington High School
Principal Barb Kopack-Hill said students wear shirts to show loyalty
to their NASCAR hero, except some also bear a beer sponsor's logo.

Ads like that are so pervasive, hardly anybody notices

"And they'll say, 'Wait a minute, this is just a racing T-shirt,' "
Kopack-Hill said.

Students don't get the same deluxe First Amendment package adults
enjoy. In a school, Kopack-Hill said, the rules are "a little more
stringent ... than freedom of speech alone would allow."

Kids do have to earn their chutzpah somehow. Sometimes a Burlington
student wears something with a message protesting the way a classmate
was treated. That's allowed, as long as it doesn't break the other

"We want students to be socially active," Kopack-Hill said, "to take
an active role rather than be apathetic."

At Racine Lutheran, a dress code shrinks the clothing problem. There's
still the possibility of messages on lockers or at sports games or
whatever, but Principal Randy Baganz said students know coming into a
Christian school how they're expected to behave.

He's followed the Supreme Court case a little bit.

"I guess it comes down to 'What is this guy's point?'" Baganz

Without an answer to that question, this one registers a zero on the
belly-fire meter. As a Christian, should I be offended by what's on
that banner? As a guy whose paycheck is tied to free speech, should I
shout for the guy's vindication?

The guy, Joseph Frederick, was supposedly just trying to get on TV.
The principal assumed his banner's message was a celebration of weed,
yanked it down and suspended him. Then the five-year judicial dance

Maybe he misunderstood. In preparing for the massive showdown they
knew would come someday, students everywhere called for a jouster, not
a jester. 
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