The Beastie Boys once spurred angst-ridden teens to fight for their right to party. Today, with parents growing ever more litigious and administrators reacting by instituting inane rules, students have to fight for their right to talk rather than whisper during lunch (see here and here). But despite the increase in campus regulation, school staffs remain at risk. Take, for example, the case of Joseph Frederick, which the Supreme Court will hear next week. After Frederick unfurled a banner that read "Bong Hits 4 Jesus," his school's principal, Deborah Morse, suspended him for ten days. If the Court finds in Frederick's favor (that his free speech was violated), Morse could be held personally liable and face severe financial penalties. That's how the infamous 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled, at least--and because Morse's actions violated Frederick's rights, she is not entitled to immunity from the lawsuit. Regardless of whether or not advocating bong hits is protected speech, if this precedent stands, students and parents can expect schools to become even more rule-bound and stifling than they already are.
"Rights at Stake in Free-Speech Case," by Mark Walsh, Education Week, March 9, 2007 (subscription required)
"Justices to Hear Landmark Free-Speech Case," by Robert Barnes, Washington Post, March 13, 2007