The First Amendment and Watson Chapel | Arkansas Blog

Thursday, October 5, 2006

The First Amendment and Watson Chapel

Posted By on Thu, Oct 5, 2006 at 5:19 PM

We've mentioned previously the folks in Watson Chapel who are unhappy about the school district uniform policy. The pig-headed school superintendent has no interest in listening to unhappy parents and students and intends to punish those for quietly expressing disagreement with his policy. This would be a government agency punishing students for exercising free speech by wearing black armbands to school tomorrow. A landmark case from Iowa specifically protects this form of speech. If Watson Chapel insists on punishing students for wearing black armbands, it will pay dearly in frederal court in addition to becoming a laughingstock. Make that add to its reputation as a laughingstock.

ACLU news release on the jump.

ACLU NEWS RELEASE

The ACLU of Arkansas says the Watson Chapel school district is opening itself wide open to a slew of first amendment lawsuits by all the students who attend Watson Chapel schools.   Many students desire to wear black armbands to school tomorrow to protest the Watson Chapel school uniform policy.  The School has threatened a three-day suspension to anyone who wears the armbands.  The School announced yesterday that mid-term tests would be moved up one week; this means that any student who is suspended for wearing an armband will miss the exams.
 
The ACLU notes that the U.S. Supreme Court in 1969 in the case of Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District held that the actions of students engaging in symbolic speech and political expression by wearing armbands to protest the Vietnam War was protected under the first amendment to the United States Constitution.
 
“The School District has imposed a policy in direct violation of the first amendment,” said ACLU of Arkansas executive director Rita Sklar.  It desires to quell all speech and opposition to its uniform policy ― even the peaceful expression of wearing an armband.  School officials may benefit from reviewing their own civics textbooks; the most important lesson being the fact that our unique Constitution and Bill of Rights gives the people, including public school students, the right to criticize the government (here, the school and it’s policy) without fear of retribution. ”

“The ACLU plans to take action in federal court if the school does not remedy the situation for those students whose first amendment rights are violated,” said staff attorney Holly Dickson.  “This includes students who have been unlawfully suspended as well as those students who were afraid to wear armbands for fear of being suspended.”

 

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