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Unpublished Paper
What would Harry Potter say about BONG HiTS 4 JESUS?
ExpressO (2007)
  • Andrea Kayne Kaufman, DePaul University
In Morse v. Frederick, the Supreme Court considered whether a high school principal, Morse, violated a student’s First Amendment right to free speech by suspending the student, Frederick, for refusing to take down a banner reading, “BONG HiTS 4 JESUS” while students were watching the Olympic torch relay pass in front of their school. In a divided decision, the Supreme Court held that the school officials did not violate the First Amendment by confiscating the banner and subsequently suspending the student. The majority’s reasoning, in large part, is based on the fact that “schools may take steps to safeguard those entrusted to their care from speech that can be reasonably regarded as encouraging illegal drug use.” The majority’s emphasis on the notion that schools are entrusted with the care of vulnerable minors draws on the principle of in loco parentis. In loco parentis, coming from Latin, means “in place of parent” and refers to the legal authority and obligations teachers, administrators, and other school personnel have to safeguard students. Moreover, it is significant that the majority uses this in loco parentis reasoning to cast aside the stringent student-centered speech test from Tinker v. Des Moines in favor of the more liberal school-centered speech test from Bethel v. Fraser. Thus, the majority explains that the principal could restrict Frederick’s speech because she was keeping him and other students safe from what she reasonably interpreted as a harmful pro drug message on his banner. The dissent, on the other hand is concerned about the slippery slope and ensuing consequences of using in loco parentis with such a broad brush to cast aside the student-centered test from Tinker in order to curtail student speech. As Justice Stevens explains, “Under the Court's reasoning, must the First Amendment give way whenever a school seeks to punish a student for any speech mentioning beer, or indeed anything else that might be deemed risky to teenagers?” Moreover, the dissent raises concerns about the dangers for democracy in adopting a ruling that overly values protection over preparation-- “Among other things, the Court's ham-handed, categorical approach is deaf to the constitutional imperative to permit unfettered debate, even among high-school students…” Finally, this law review article uses Princeton and University of Pennsylvania scholar Amy Gutmann’s Theory of Democracy in Education to discuss the implications of Morse v. Frederick on student speech and democracy.
Publication Date
September, 2007
Citation Information
Andrea Kayne Kaufman. "What would Harry Potter say about BONG HiTS 4 JESUS?" ExpressO (2007)
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