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Supreme Court tightens limits on student speech

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  • Greg Cannon
    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20070625/ap_on_go_su_co/scotus_bong_hits;_ylt=AsoPVZ1_u4pLpEMTteoQdbFAw_IE Court tightens limits on student speech By MARK SHERMAN,
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 25, 2007
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      http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20070625/ap_on_go_su_co/scotus_bong_hits;_ylt=AsoPVZ1_u4pLpEMTteoQdbFAw_IE

      Court tightens limits on student speech

      By MARK SHERMAN, Associated Press Writer 1 hour, 36
      minutes ago

      WASHINGTON - The Supreme Court tightened limits on
      student speech Monday, ruling against a high school
      student and his 14-foot-long "Bong Hits 4 Jesus"
      banner.

      Schools may prohibit student expression that can be
      interpreted as advocating drug use, Chief Justice John
      Roberts wrote for the court in a 5-4 ruling.

      Joseph Frederick unfurled his homemade sign on a
      winter morning in 2002, as the Olympic torch made its
      way through Juneau, Alaska, en route to the Winter
      Olympics in Salt Lake City.

      Frederick said the banner was a nonsensical message
      that he first saw on a snowboard. He intended the
      banner to proclaim his right to say anything at all.

      His principal, Deborah Morse, said the phrase was a
      pro-drug message that had no place at a
      school-sanctioned event. Frederick denied that he was
      advocating for drug use.

      "The message on Frederick's banner is cryptic,"
      Roberts said. "But Principal Morse thought the banner
      would be interpreted by those viewing it as promoting
      illegal drug use, and that interpretation is plainly a
      reasonable one."

      Morse suspended the student, prompting a federal civil
      rights lawsuit.

      Students in public schools don't have the same rights
      as adults, but neither do they leave their
      constitutional protections at the schoolhouse gate, as
      the court said in a landmark speech-rights ruling from
      Vietnam era.

      The court has limited what students can do in
      subsequent cases, saying they may not be disruptive or
      lewd or interfere with a school's basic educational
      mission.

      Frederick, now 23, said he later had to drop out of
      college after his father lost his job. The elder
      Frederick, who worked for the company that insures the
      Juneau schools, was fired in connection with his son's
      legal fight, the son said. A jury recently awarded
      Frank Frederick $200,000 in a lawsuit he filed over
      his firing.

      Joseph Frederick, who has been teaching and studying
      in China, pleaded guilty in 2004 to a misdemeanor
      charge of selling marijuana at Stephen F. Austin State
      University in Nacogdoches, Texas, according to court
      records.

      Conservative groups that often are allied with the
      administration are backing Frederick out of concern
      that a ruling for Morse would let schools clamp down
      on religious expression, including speech that might
      oppose homosexuality or abortion.

      The case is Morse v. Frederick, 06-278.

      (This version CORRECTS SUBS last graf, bgng, Joseph
      Frederick, ... ADDS 3 grafs detail on Joseph
      Frederick, context; corrects spelling of Nacogdoches
      in graf bgng, Joseph Frederick ... etc.)
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