Pubdate: Thu, 05 Jul 2007
Source: Technician, The (NC State U, NC Edu)
Copyright: 2007 The Technician
Author: Josh Harrell
Cited: Students for Sensible Drug Policy
Bookmark: (Bong Hits 4 Jesus)
Bookmark: (Students - United States)
Bookmark: (Students for Sensible Drug Policy)


Students and Faculty Argue That the Supreme Court's Decision in Morse
v. Frederick Won't Hinder Free Speech at University Level

The Supreme Court reached a decision last week on the case Morse v.
Frederick and decided to allow schools principals to restrict free
speech when that speech is promoting drug use.

The decision came five years after Joseph Frederick held up a sign
with the words "Bong hits 4 Jesus" on it across the street from his
Juneau, Alaska high school at an Olympic torch relay.

Then-principal of the school, Deborah Morse, suspended Frederick for
the act, while Frederick claimed Morse violated his right to free speech.

The ruling does not directly effect college and university students,
as the court made the law for high schools and below.

One of the first Supreme Court decisions on student free speech came
in Tinker v. Des Moines. Students at a Des Moines high school wore arm
bands to protest the Vietnam War. School principals adopted a policy
to suspend anyone wearing the armbands. The Supreme Court decided the
punishment violated students' First Amendment rights of free speech.

According to Jon Hall, a communication law professor, the Court's
decision in Morse v. Frederick does not deviate greatly from its
decision in Tinker v. Des Moines.

"The students were supervised by faculty members, and the banner
speaks in favor of supporting an illegal activity," Hall said. "It
does offer a different set of facts that will be considered in future

Hall said he believes Chief Justice John Roberts was fair in his work
with the case.

"When Roberts was installed as Chief Justice of the United States, I
had high hopes that we were getting a judge who would listen fairly to
both sides, then render a reasonable decision," Hall said. "The facts
and decision in the Morse v. Frederick case do nothing to make me
re-think my expectations."

Hall said he doesn't think the decision will have a significant impact
on changing laws of student freedom of speech or expression.

The organization Students for a Sensible Drug Policy was active in
lobbying during the case, but said the Court's decision is by no means

"The silver lining in the case is that the court specifically stated
that speech about drug policy issues -- such as the legalization of
marijuana -- is protected speech," Kris Krane, the executive director
of SSDP, said.

Accodring to Krane, the decision will have no direct impact on

"College students are adults, and historically for people under 18,
the school acts in a role of the parent," Krane said.

But according to Matthew Potter, a senior in political science, it
will effect the University atmosphere, as future students will have
had restricted speech in high school.

"We'll have students who have not been exposed to a wider variety of
issues," Potter said. "Free speech will have been stifled for them in
high school so they won't have a respect for open dialogue."

Potter, a member of SSDP, is encouraging high school students to
continue to discuss policies in high school that arenit related to
illegal drug use.

"This hopefully won't deter students from discussing policies openly,"
Potter said. "But the highest court in the land issued a ruling, so
there's only so much that can be done about it." 
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