Saturday, September 22, 2007

First Amendment Victory

We read:

"Two students in northern New Jersey can wear buttons featuring a picture of Hitler youth to protest a school uniform policy, a federal judge ruled Thursday.

U.S. District Judge Joseph A. Greenaway Jr. sided with the parents of the students, who had been threatened with suspension last fall for wearing the buttons. However, the judge added in his ruling that the boys will not be allowed to distribute the buttons at school.

Citing a 1969 case in Iowa involving students who wore black arm bands to protest the Vietnam War, Greenaway wrote that "a student may not be punished for merely expressing views unless the school has reason to believe that the speech or expression will 'materially and substantially disrupt the work and discipline of the school.'"

The buttons bear the words "no school uniforms" with a slash through them superimposed on a photo of young boys wearing identical shirts and neckerchiefs. There are no swastikas visible on the buttons, but the parties agreed that they depict members of Hitler youth.


This is a straightforward application of precedent regarding the 1st Amendment. It has been held previously that "disruption" is the only thing that trumps a student's free speech rights. The surprise is, however, that the judge stuck to the law when anything "racist" was involved. Judges are perfectly capable of making up the law as they go along if it suits them.