A high school decided to excuse students from class to go outside to watch the Olympic torch relay run past their school. Teachers and school administrators monitored the students. As the torchbearers and camera crews passed a group of students, the students opened up a fourteen foot banner that said “BONG HITS 4 JESUS.” The principal demanded that the banner be taken down immediately but one student refused. The principal then confiscated the banner and suspended the student, explaining that she did so because the banner promoted illegal drug use in violation of school policy. The student claimed that he made the sign just to get on TV and did not care what it said.
What Amendment is at issue here? [The 1st Amendment]
What do you think a Court held about what the school did? [The Supreme Court of the United States ruled that this was a school speech case because it took place during school hours at a school sanctioned event, the school band and cheerleaders performed, and teachers and administrators monitored. Also, the school district’s rules provide that students at a school sanctioned event are governed by school rules. The Court agreed that the sign could be interpreted as promoting illegal drug use. The Court stated that “the constitutional rights of students in public schools are not automatically coextensive with the rights of adults in other settings” and speech that causes a “substantial disruption” like argued in the armband case is not the only type of speech that may not be permissible in schools. The Court held that the First Amendment does not require school to tolerate student expression that endorses real dangers faced by the students.]
How does the armband case differ from the “BONG HITS 4 JESUS” case? [unlike the armband case where the school’s fear was an “undifferentiated fear or apprehension of disturbance” or a “mere desire to avoid the discomfort and unpleasantness that always accompany an unpopular viewpoint,” the concern in the banner case is to prevent student drug use, which is beyond an abstract desire to avoid controversy. Therefore, the content based restrictions imposed in the banner case do not violate the First Amendment but those imposed in the armband case do.]