Thursday, July 31, 2008

Selwyn Duke Gets it Wrong on David Davis - Part II

The first thing about Duke's preposterous screed on the Gillman decision that tripped my trigger is his claim that students do not have the right to voice dissent.
I can’t think of anything more laughable than describing students as “dissenters.” Governments have dissenters; politicians have dissenters; political parties and organizations have dissenters; but schools’ charges are children, individuals over whom they have dominion while class is in session.
Bzzt. Wrong. Try again, Mr. Duke. Had you read the full decision on Gillman, and were you honest about familiar with the applicable precedent, you would be aware that in Holloman v. Harland SCOTUS found that First Amendment rights to free speech "unquestionably exist in public schools".

Next we have his argument that they shouldn't be granted First Amendment rights:
The problem with arguing for any kind of student expression based upon the First Amendment is that we don’t ascribe to children an adult set of rights. Minors may not vote, join the military, drive, buy alcohol or cigarettes, or enter into contracts, for instance. Likewise, students don’t really have free-speech rights in school (see Bethel School District v. Fraser, for instance). If I want to pepper a schoolteacher with profanity and tell him off, that is my right. But if I were 30 years younger and in his class, a trip to the principal’s office would be in the offing.
I see several problems with this statement. Firstly, the idea that because we don't extend full adult privileges, that children have no First Amendment rights. This is preposterous on its face. There is ample legal precedent extending First Amendment rights to minors: for instance, decisions upholding students' rights to freely exercise their religious views in school (albeit outside the classroom). Would Mr Duke agree that students shouldn't have a right to form prayer and bible study groups in their schools, or "meet at the flag" groups, should the local school board or the school administration deem them innapropriate? Somehow, I think not.

Secondly, his citation of the Bethel decision. Once again, Mr Duke is lying through his teeth being disingenuous. The judge in the Gillman case, Richard Smoak, specifically mentions Bethel in his decision. Bethel's controls are on speech that is "vulgar, lewd, obscene, or plainly offensive". His finding was that the speech in question is pure student expression, and so Bethel doesn't apply. The proper precedent is Tinker, which asserts students' rights. Incidentally, the Holmes County School Board actually agreed that the students actions, clothing, and speech were not offensive, vulgar, etc.

Lastly, exactly where does "pepper a schoolteacher with profanity and tell him off" come into play here? Selwyn seems to be referencing a case entirely divorced from Gillman. At no point was any schoolteacher verbally abused by a student. In fact not even the principal, who really rather asked for some verbal abuse, received any. Whose ass did he pull that out of Where did that statement come from?

These students are about to enter society at large. Stifling the few liberties they enjoy will not teach them to be responsible citizens, to protect their freedoms and participate in the political process. To quote the Tinker court (via the Gillman decision):
The vigilant protection of constitutional freedoms is nowhere more vital than in the community of American schools. The classroom is peculiarly the ‘marketplace of
ideas.’ The Nation’s future depends upon leaders trained through wide exposure to that robust exchange of ideas which discovers truth ‘out of a multitude of tongues, (rather) than through any kind of authoritative selection'.
'Course, Duke's blather wouldn't be a true right-fringe rant without the following:
Of course, some may not like the values inherent in Principal Davis’ actions. My response to them is that they don’t have to live in places such as Ponce de Leon, Fla.
"If you don't like George Bush, whyoncha move to Eyeraq, damned libruls".

I can only say that I hope that some of the students involved in this fiasco remain in Holmes County, FL and try to insure that future generations of students aren't treated the way their generation has been.

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