Friday, August 14, 2009

Free speech blocked in Tennessee school

We read:
"A federal judge ruled a Tennessee school’s ban on Confederate clothing was a reasonable attempt to prevent disruptions because of previous racial threats.

U.S. District Judge Tom Varlan threw out a former student’s free-speech lawsuit against the dress code at Anderson County High School and Anderson County Career Technical Center in a ruling Tuesday.

Tommy Defoe sued after he was sent home and then suspended for insubordination in 2006 for wearing a T-shirt and a belt buckle to school bearing the image of the Confederate battle flag. He said he wanted to display his pride in his Southern heritage. Others view the Confederate flag as a symbol of racism and intolerance.

Varlan said Tommy Defoe’s free-speech rights to display the Confederate battle flag in 2006 were properly limited by school officials who “reasonably forecasted a material and substantial disruption to the school environment” if the clothing was permitted.


So free speech was blocked because of something that MIGHT happen. By that standard all sorts of things could be blocked. When I get into my car I MIGHT hit someone with it so should I be banned from driving?


Brian from Virginia said...

"So free speech was blocked because of something that MIGHT happen. By that standard all sorts of things could be blocked. When I get into my car I MIGHT hit someone with it so should I be banned from driving?"

Why not? That is the same line of logic some people use with regard to firearms.

And just to let you know, I am not one of those people. I believe that people have a right to do whatever, own firearms drive cars etc., until that individual has proven he or she is unfit for said right and responsibility.

A. NY Yankee said...

Ahh Brian, you paint a picture of the perfect world. If only we could weed out those people who are unfit. But who will make that decision? Perhaps an unfit judge, as in this case. Or perhaps, some unfit school Nazi's who are apparently overdosing on PC'ism. Or perhaps, you? Do you believe this young man was being irresponsible by displaying his flag?

I only hope this young man finds a law firm who will put this judge and these indoctrination camp officials in their place. Or better yet, force them to read the Constitution, including those parts they personally disagree with, like the part that says, political speech is protected speech! It's too bad the young man wasn't wearing a Che Guevara T-shirt. If he had, the aclu would be all over this case. Of course, if it were a Che T-shirt, this would never have happened.

Hundreds-of-thousands of brave, loyal Americans died fighting for what that flag represented to them. And no, it had nothing to do with slavery. If the good people of the South no longer have the will to fight to keep their proud heritage, it will be taken from them, something that some are trying hard to do.

Stan B said...

We have two lessons here:

1) Speech in American Public Schools is not protected as vigorously as speech in the public square. The SCOTUS has ruled that the State's interest in creating an environment conducive to education is more important than the Free Speech of the students. This ruling, about what "MIGHT" happen, is in line with previous decisions.

2) If you want to shut down a fellow student's right to free speech, vociferously and violently react to any expression of theirs you disagree with. Do it long enough, and with enough numbers, and you can effectively cause the impression that what "MIGHT" happen is sufficiently bad to shut down their speech.

Bobby said...

This matter should go all the way up to the Supreme Court. If blacks can celebrate their heritage, so can white southeners!

McNasty said...

The Civil War did not start to free the slaves per se. It was about states rights vs a strong central government i.e The Union. Slavery just happened to be the major source of contention over states rights at the time. Was slavery right. Of course not and the economic system built around it would eventually fail. Lincoln initially did not want to free the slaves but he did want to preserve the union. So when those of us fly our confederate flag it is usually to show our heritage as having stood up to the Federal government. Of course there are some idiots here that think they should use this symbol as a means to intimidate others but that is really no different than those on the other side using the race card to get their way.
But to get back to the original story. As a southerner, I feel the school was correct to try and prevent an incident, and in all probability there would have been one due to idiots on both sides of the equation. They should also look at those wearing symbols that reflect the heritage/beliefs of others that someone else could take offense to and create an incident as well.
And just for the record, look what our stong central government is doing for us today. Once you give up some of your rights, the others are sure to follow.

Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both.
Benjamin Franklin .

Anonymous said...

The actual court opinion can be found here:

It is a total beat down of many of the arguments presented in this forum such as:
1) wouldn't ban a "liberal" shirt. The principal states that he would ban a clenched fist or Malcolm X t-shirt as well as a Confederate flag tee shirt.
2) The school had experienced racial incidents and tensions. The Confederate flag would likely to have caused a disruption in the learning environment. In fact, the school had experienced a racial incident where the Confederate flag was used to try and intimidate a student. There is a history of the flag causing disruption at the school. In that there were previous incidents with the flag and previous racial incidents, it is reasonable that the school administrators can ban the image based on the disruption it may cause.
3) The reason the kid wears the flag is not important. It is the disruption that the image causes. The school cannot and did not regulate the wearing of the flag because of what it meant to the student, (which would be content censoring) but rather banned ALL Confederate flags which is not content based. The school banned the image strictly on the disruption that was likely to occur.

This court doesn't agree with one thing the plaintiff said or argued. The kid is free to appeal, but as the 6th District just ruled against another similar case (Barr v. Lafron) they won't get relief there. As the SCOTUS has already ruled on a similar issue in Tinker v. DeMoines, it will most likely not be granted cert.

This is over.

Anonymous said...

If we are now using the reaction to political speech as a gauge to free speech then when do all females in the us have to start wearing Burkas?

Robert said...

The short answer - "Over our dead bodies!"

Anonymous said...

The only fair and balanced answer to this particular problem is for President Obama to Nationalize every elementary and high school in the United States and then issue an edict mandating standard school uniforms.

Anonymous said...

With pants worn down around the knees.

Brian from Virginia said...

Well NY Yankee, there is a way to weed out those people who are unfit. To guarantee freedom for everyone we unfortunately have to wait until they do something illegal first. I should be allowed to drive my car as long as I have a valid drivers license, have insurance for my car, have my car in good working order (that one isn't a legal point but a safety point, at least for me), and obey all traffic laws (driving on the correct side of the road, no drinking and driving, etc.). I apply this same idea to just about all aspects of life. The government that prohibits you from doing something just because the possibility of the most horrible outcome exists, is not the government for me. People are free. People are free to make good choices and bad ones. The people who make really bad ones are the ones that need to be dealt with. But not until they have acted. The very idea of government 'action' on what I think, scares me.