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Judge rules against anti-war student
November 1, 2001 12:41 PM   Subscribe

Judge rules against anti-war student So is this censorship of an unpopular position, or covered by the "fire in a theater" argument? Creating an "anarchy club" seems a little odd.
posted by owillis (46 comments total)

 
Hm. This is actually a tough call -- is it really "fire in a theater"? I'd say no; let the girl wear her shirt and get beat up fifteen times a day by the jocks if she wants to. (Of course, then she'll sue for a) gender bias, b) emotional suffering and abuse, and c) hate crimes.)

I guess we could start legislating against stupidity, but our jails are full enough as it is....

And let's not forget: I may disagree with what she says, but I'll defend to the death her right to say it. Any subversion of freedom of speech, even in a good cause, does harm to the idea.
posted by mrmanley at 12:55 PM on November 1, 2001


Circuit Court Judge James Stucky agreed that free speech is "sacred" but he found that such rights are "tempered by the limitations that they ... not disrupt the educational process."

I suspect Judge Stucky was using the archaic meaning of sacred which is: 4 archaic : ACCURSED (from Merriam-Webster OnLine)
posted by srboisvert at 12:59 PM on November 1, 2001


I agree. Anarchy club does sound like a stupid idea, but let her have it. The t-shirt isn't even an issue. It's incredible that this happened. I mean, isn't that what the first amendment all about? Freedom of speech? We allow nazis to parade in main streets, but draw the line at some 15 year old girl's t-shirt.
posted by tiaka at 1:00 PM on November 1, 2001


Bad judge. The Bill of Rights applies to those under 18 just as much as it does to those of us (ahem) over 18.

"school disruption" is not sufficient reason to deny someone their constitutional rights. That said, I have the sneaking suspicion someone's mommy and daddy are making a political point on the back of their kid.

As for the "anarchy club"... wouldn't organizing a club be against the anarchy credo? Sort of like having a "chaos corporation." Buncha knuckleheads, c'mere you.. [noogie-noogie-noogie] now get back to class!
posted by UncleFes at 1:02 PM on November 1, 2001


More info here.

Judge James Stucky refused to grant a preliminary injunction to allow 15-year- old Katie Sierra to wear her homemade T-shirts or form an anarchy club until the case can be presented in court.

Preliminary injunction, yo. There's a difference.
posted by techgnollogic at 1:03 PM on November 1, 2001


Yes, let's let thug mentality and peer pressure deal with ideas we don't care for, that way the school staff doesn't have to. Good idea, Mr. Manley!

The girl should be able to start her club. Pro-war kids should start a pro-war club. Letting kids become politically active at a young age, and making it part of the education process seems like a good idea to me.
posted by Doug at 1:05 PM on November 1, 2001


Man I wish there was a pro-war club when I was in high school! But it was the 80s, and all the wars were covert :(
posted by UncleFes at 1:07 PM on November 1, 2001


This young woman obviously has some strong feelings about the bombings. Although mine may be a minority viewpoint on Metafilter, I believe that legally a student's right to free speech while at school does not extend to speech that is viewed by the administrators as being disruptive.

You could argue that part of learning is to explore alternate viewpoints, etc. etc. but the problem is that public schools have a mandate to administer a specific curriculum to a large, heterogenous body of people with different viewpoints (and levels of maturity). This is a formidible task and it is not difficult to imaging how 1000 little Abbie Hoffmans running around might make their task damn near impossible.
posted by dr_emory at 1:09 PM on November 1, 2001


"The girl should be able to start her club. Pro-war kids should start a pro-war club."

The anti-war kids could bring in signs. The pro-war kids could bring in anti-riot gear with guns and shoot the anti-war kids. I know. I'll call it mini-wto-seattle-riot.
posted by tiaka at 1:11 PM on November 1, 2001


Doug:

I'm not advocating that the grunts beat her up, but she lives in West Virginia (that's the byline on the story, anyhow). I've been there, and I can tell you that it's just about a guarantee that if she wanders the hallways at a typical high school in those parts, she's begging for a shot in the teeth. Teenagers aren't known for their appreciation for the subtler points of Constitutional law, you know.

Further, UncleFes has a point: an anarchy club? Isn't that kind of a paradox?
posted by mrmanley at 1:18 PM on November 1, 2001


Here's a local news story with a picture of Katie wearing one of the shirts that emperiled the education of 700, and a hot-or-not type profile page of Katie with more information about her Internet activities.

I love idiotic school officials and iconoclastic kids who are willing to cause trouble because of the strength of their convictions. Heaven forbid a teen get out of high school with the ability to tolerate dissenting opinions. If one of my kids grows up to do something like this, I'd be extremely proud.

I sent her an e-mail at katie@borezine.com to let her know about this discussion.
posted by rcade at 1:19 PM on November 1, 2001


I meant to say: wanders the hallways wearing the offending shirt.
posted by mrmanley at 1:19 PM on November 1, 2001


(Pro-war club meeting)
Announcer (Freshman): We call the president of the club to stand...
(applause)
President (Sophomore): Now that we have dealt with the anti-war club.. it's time to move on to more serious issues.
(turns around)
President (sophomore): Mr. Treasurer, have you allocated the fund for our next campaign again the AV and the Home-EC club?
Treasurer (senior): Not yet. It seems we are seeking financing from our campaigns in the middle-east. The middle-east wing of school. The geeks are getting smarter, they're putting their money into wallets, now when you shake them upside down, the money doesn't seem to drop out as easily. We are currently researching anti-wallet-ballistic systems.
President (sophomore): Excellent. That along with the money allocated by our parents should be enough. How does the PR situation look?
PR Pres (junior): We have ceased control of all the media, well.. the school paper. We are feeding them stories.
President (Sophomore): What kind of stories?
Pr Pres (junior): Like "Pro-war club your friend" and "Peace is our profession!" and "Army of One, against you" and...
President (Sophomore): That's enough. Good. What are we doing about the god damn spiks?
Pr Pres (junior): Spiks, sir?
President (Sophomore): I wasn't talking to you.. who's head of Immigration?
Janitor (Age: 55): I just wash the floor...but...
President (Sophomore): Dammit! What do I pay you for?
Janitor (Age: 55) interrupts: You don't pay me...
President (Sophomore): That's beside the point! I want you to deport the International Club, Then our plan toward world domination will be that much closer.
posted by tiaka at 1:26 PM on November 1, 2001


Hey Doc Emory, isn't the current war a 'formidable task'? Perhaps even more formidable than teaching kids in high school?

Do you think that because a job is hard dissent and free speech should not be tolerated?

BTW teaching is not that hard a job. I am not sure where the equation of teaching = rocket science comes from. Maybe TV drama's and such . Teaching is an important job but not an inherently difficult one..
posted by srboisvert at 1:31 PM on November 1, 2001


At least they didn't call her a self-styled anarchist.

Anyway, way back when I was in high school, dreaming of dissent, I came across Tinker v. Des Moines
Independent Community School District
:
First Amendment rights, applied in light of the special characteristics of the school environment, are available to teachers and students. It can hardly be argued that either students or teachers shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate.
And easier to read than the actual opinion is this review of a book about the case.
posted by idiolect at 1:35 PM on November 1, 2001


Bad judge. The Bill of Rights applies to those under 18 just as much as it does to those of us (ahem) over 18.

Actually, there's plenty of case law, including a number of SCOTUS rulings concerning student newspapers, that say that the BOR does not apply to minors.


Sierra's attorney, Roger Forman, said she is "being punished for expressing her opinion

No, she's just learning that valuable lesson that actions have consequences. Were that the rest of the current generation of whiners had learned it.
posted by darren at 1:36 PM on November 1, 2001


I wonder what the members of the anarchy club would do in the event of actual anarchy. Besides weep, I mean, as the strongest apes in the pack mercilessly beat them into submission. Anarchy is baaaaaaaaad... unless you're in the pro-war club and armed to the teeth, I suppose.
posted by UncleFes at 1:39 PM on November 1, 2001


i was going to try to sort of kind of justify this by saying that this just continues to incredible restrictions we've been putting on school dress fo the last years years...ever since school violence started escalating. i've heard of some places where certain hairstyles (mohawks) have been banned.

but then i went in search of links to justify my position. the first one i found was vintage my high schools days. and just plain taliban-like. (not mention idiolect beat me to it with a better example)

so i'm going to have to put my vote down as 'censorship,' oliver. there is no good reason for free speech to be any less a right even though your a minor
posted by danOstuporStar at 1:40 PM on November 1, 2001


There's nothing strange about an anarchist club, if that's what she's trying to form (the article is vague).

Anarchism is, in essence, the belief that people are capable of managing their affairs without being controlled by a government. Anarchists have different ideas about what ought to replace the centralized government, but voluntary associations of people with common interests or goals are an element common to most all proposals.

"Anarchy" simply means "absence of government", and often connotes a state of lawlessness and chaos. The whole point of anarchism, however, is that a healthy, lawful, organized society can exist without government. Thus there is no conflict between anarchism and an anarchy club.

-Mars
posted by Mars Saxman at 1:41 PM on November 1, 2001


Srboisvert,

I'm not saying that teaching is a hard job. In fact, I too am put off by the constant whining of a bunch of teachers about what they do for a living. It's not hard compared to any number of other jobs I could think of. I aree with you. But I do think that the overall task of educating that large bunch of people is something that is difficult. As for the current war being a formidable task, I don't think I really understand your comment.

I guess to put my comment in oversimplified redneck-speak: There's a time and a place to speak your mind, and a time and a place to sit down and shut up.
posted by dr_emory at 1:44 PM on November 1, 2001


"I don't believe in violence," Katie Sierra, 15, said during a court hearing Wednesday. "I don't believe in hurting people. I don't fight."

She must be one of those shy, retiring anarchists who subverts authority through non-violent means, like peeling the price tags off socks in JC Penney or not returning library books on time.
posted by daragh at 1:46 PM on November 1, 2001


darren:
No, she's just learning that valuable lesson that actions have consequences. Were that the rest of the current generation of whiners had learned it.

Well, of course. Wearing a provocative T-shirt is an action. Being harassed for wearing the shirt is a consequence. But harassing someone for making a political statement is itself an action, and a good smack with the First Amendment is an appropriate consequence.

-Mars
posted by Mars Saxman at 1:47 PM on November 1, 2001


not returning library books on time.

I do this. Anarchy NOW!
posted by UncleFes at 1:57 PM on November 1, 2001


What would you say if a group of students decided to publicize their objections to the hostilities in Vietnam and their support for a truce by wearing black armbands, and the principal of their school adopted a policy that any student wearing an armband to school would be asked to remove it, and if he refused he would be suspended until he returned without the armband. That's the Tinker case, and the Supreme Court said the students have the right to wear the arm bands. Read the case.
posted by Outlawyr at 2:04 PM on November 1, 2001


inspired by our bootleg sex pistols cassette tapes, in 1987 myself and other members of the school newspaper placed an ad for an anarchists club meeting at our school. We didn't attend, and no one ever showed up, thus we considered it to be a smashing success. That is my only experience with being an anarchist.

If one of my kids grows up to do something like this, I'd be extremely proud

i'll have to agree with rcade. [though maybe allowance would have to be transferred to a legal fund for a while.]
posted by th3ph17 at 2:18 PM on November 1, 2001


Well, Mars, the problem with the belief that the government can be either absent or in the background and let people live their own lives is that humans really don't seem to regulate themselves all that well in the face of power vs. the good of the people, and based on history, it's a fairly safe assumption that in the event of anarchy, a particularly charismatic or well-armed individual or group would make things... unpleasant... for the weaker people, like me.

Besides, the philosophy you seem to be expounding is inherently optimistic about human nature, and self-government, and... hey, it's anarchistic socialism!
posted by j.edwards at 2:23 PM on November 1, 2001


If one of my kids grows up to do something like this, I'd be extremely proud

I would ask whether his homework was done. No going to anarchy club if he hasn't done his homework. Extracurricular anarchistic activities come second.

It's a house rule, you know.
posted by UncleFes at 2:28 PM on November 1, 2001


Mars makes me want to be an anarchist instead of a libertarian, but only because I define my label in much the same way.
posted by thirteen at 2:33 PM on November 1, 2001


Better to wear t-shirts that make observers think, than midriff-baring tops!
posted by Carol Anne at 2:39 PM on November 1, 2001


"school disruption" is not sufficient reason to deny someone their constitutional rights" when i was 15, i wore a T-shirt to school that said "Smoke Columbian". teacher sent me home. I knew they would and did it anyway. was I anti-columbian?
--
0
hell no. (not really a NAFTA issue back then) I did it to be sent home, hence a reason to wear the shirt other then the endorsing the logo. This woman should expect more then being sent home.
posted by clavdivs at 2:41 PM on November 1, 2001


thats what i nobout that
posted by clavdivs at 2:41 PM on November 1, 2001


Outawyr, by invoking the Tinker case, are you suggesting that there is no difference between a simple armband and a t-shirt bearing purposefully provocative text? It would seem to me that one of the reasons that the students' right to wear the armbands was supported was that there was nothing inherently offensive about a plain black band -- can the same truly be said about the t-shirts favoured by this young woman?
posted by Dreama at 2:58 PM on November 1, 2001


How many news stories have we seen regarding some misguided Christian kid who thinks he's going to make a statement by wearning a t-shirt (usually homemade!) which espouses idiotic anti-gay or anti-sex ideas?
And the press and the thought police crowd descend en masse upon his pointy little head.

Censorship cuts both ways and it's pretty funny to see the left realize that.
posted by prodigal at 3:07 PM on November 1, 2001


*sigh* Katie the Tomy Hilfiger wearin' anarchist. Jeez.
posted by nathan_teske at 3:45 PM on November 1, 2001


I remember speaking out against the Vietnam War. (The year: 1983. It was a college "History of the US in the 20th Century" class.) I stated that the government was misguided to get us into an unwinnable conflict. I was later confronted outside the classroom by a fellow student, threatening violence (he was literally shaking). He'd apparently lost a relative there. He accused me of saying things I had not said and demanded that ... well, I don't remember, he wasn't very coherent. I didn't think I was saying anything that wasn't blindingly obvious by 1983, but I nearly got my face smashed in for it.

(Of course, even then, my pacifism was waning; it can't have been long after that that I agreed I would support any war where we were actually attacked. That principle has held firm. Since it's been 20 years or so since my nuke-disarmament activities, I don't consider my opinion changed dramatically enough by the Current Situation to buy a Former Pacifist item [explanation].)

But just to reiterate how hard it is to voice independent opinion, even independent opinion that supports the overall aims of eliminating bin Laden's terrorist network, and supports military action as one of those means, I echoed parts of this Washington Post critique of the war on Usenet and got flamed for posting "meaningless anti-American claptrap" etc. The author of that column? Bill Kristol, of the Weekly Standard.
posted by dhartung at 4:20 PM on November 1, 2001


We started an anarchist club at my high school many years ago. I thought it would be cool. And it was. We sat around and talked a lot and plotted ways to make up alternate identities. We listened to a lot of BauHaus and The Smiths.

I'm not sure I learned a lot but it was fun. The ultimate irony was that I and another founder of the club ran for Co-Class president on an anarchy platform.

We almost won.
posted by mjane at 4:43 PM on November 1, 2001


Regardless of the writings of the Honorable Abe Fortas in the Tinker case cited above, children are not afforded the same rights as adults under the constitution. Tinker was one of the first cases where children were recognized legally as people, and not just the property of their parents. But it doesn't go so far as to grant them the protections under the constitution that adults have, or at least it hasn't stood the test of time to stand for that proposition.

I located a list of cases that come after Tinker, and show this lessened level of constitutional protection on a page intended to be a lesson plan for teachers to teach teenagers about the constitution. My favorite case amonst the bunch was one where a student was reprimanded by the school for the following speech:

"I know a man is who is firm--he's firm in his pants, he's firm in his shirt, his character is firm--but most of all his belief in you, the students of Bethel, is firm. Jeff Kuhlman is a man who takes his point and pounds it in. If necessary, he'll take an issue and nail it to the wall. He doesn't attack things in spurts--he drives hard, pushing and pushing until he finally succeeds. Jeff is a man who will go to the very end and even the climax, for each and every one of you. So vote for Jeff for ASB vice-president--he'll never come between you and the best our high school can be."

In Katie's situation, the best thing that could have happened, would be for her to be allowed to wear her t-shirt, and for discussion regarding the issues to be allowed to be raised in public, in a peaceful and nurturing manner. And for School administrators (and the principal) to become involved in Katies anarchist's club. That principal may never get another opportunity that good to actually touch student's lives in a positive manner.
posted by bragadocchio at 4:44 PM on November 1, 2001


Some of you people scare me worse than any Afghan....
posted by rushmc at 4:50 PM on November 1, 2001


How many news stories have we seen regarding some misguided Christian kid who thinks he's going to make a statement by wearning a t-shirt (usually homemade!) which espouses idiotic anti-gay or anti-sex ideas.

Cite a single one. I certainly can't recall any stories about Christian teens who were sent home for wearing homemade anti-sex undershirts.
posted by rcade at 7:25 PM on November 1, 2001


In 1986 I nearly got suspended for writing an article about the "anarchy club" in my high school and wanting to headline it "Anarchy at AB" [my school]. My dundering principal had come prepared with a xeroxed page of a dictionary highlighted to show me "see, anarchy means violence!"

There is a difference between anarchy as the word that denotes chaos and lack of order and the philosophy of anarchism which is basically about creating self-governing communities where people help each other out because they all benefit, not because they are coerced. blah blah blah, what Mars said.

the problem with the belief that the government can be either absent or in the background and let people live their own lives is that humans really don't seem to regulate themselves all that well in the face of power vs. the good of the people...

my response to this is that I am not forced to live with poor self-regulators in my anarchist utopia. they exist in my world, sure, but I don't have to be part of their communities. In this case where high school is an enforced, non-chosen 8 hours a day situation, it strikes me that letting her wear her shirt, start her club, whatever, is going to teach her more valuable lessons about self-governance and her opinions on same than any amount of regulation-from without.

not returning library books on time.

I would not try that if I were you.
posted by jessamyn at 7:53 PM on November 1, 2001


Anarchist Librarians Web? I think I have to go return some books now...
posted by bragadocchio at 8:57 PM on November 1, 2001


ANARCHY RULES!
heh, heh, heh...
posted by StOne at 9:23 PM on November 1, 2001


thirteen: "anarchism" is also often called "libertarian socialism" - does that make you feel better?

j.edwards:
based on history, it's a fairly safe assumption that in the event of anarchy, a particularly charismatic or well-armed individual or group would make things... unpleasant... for the weaker people, like me.

Perhaps, but here we once again encounter the unfortunate conflation of "a state of disorder and chaos" with "a state of no government". Anarchists typically don't advocate disorder and chaos, and don't want anarchy in the sense you're using the word. Instead it is a lawful, orderly society free of coercion that anarchists want. It is hard for any individual or group to take over a stable, healthy, functioning society, and anarchists usually argue that central control and the coercion required to enforce it tend to weaken and destabilize societies.

I'm assuming this girl is an anarchist in the political sense, because someone who wanted to promote disorder and chaos would probably not bother to form a club for it.

Besides, the philosophy you seem to be expounding is inherently optimistic about human nature, and self-government, and... hey, it's anarchistic socialism!

Perhaps so, but it's no more optimistic than the idea of democracy itself. The idea of government by an elected body of representatives was as radical in the 1700s as the idea of government by cooperation between groups of people with common interests sounds today. That was an immense leap of faith - the idea that "the masses" were capable of selecting leaders for themselves and thereby governing themselves indirectly. And if people are capable of governing themselves indirectly, what's so strange about the idea that they should be capable of governing themselves without the intermediate step?

-Mars
posted by Mars Saxman at 10:06 PM on November 1, 2001


What strikes me as most provocative about the shirts this girls is wearing is the WAY she chooses to phrase things:

When I saw the dead and dying Afghani children on TV, I felt a newly recovered sense of national security. God Bless America.

She opposes the bombing of Afghanistan, but instead of saying "Retaliation won't help" or "The bombs are going to be worse than letting it be," she says, essentially, "You are wrong and stupid." It's trolling.
posted by chiheisen at 11:06 PM on November 1, 2001


Mars: "The masses" didn't select leaders at the beginning of the United States's history. The only leaders who won office through direct elections were Congressional representatives, and to vote for them you had to own land (as well as be a white male). Senators were selected by state legislatures, and were for decades until the Constitution was amended to allow direct elections. The President was not elected by direct popular vote, and still is not directly elected, although huge, yearlong appeals to electorates in invidual states, as well as the nation, are involved.
posted by raysmj at 11:11 PM on November 1, 2001


After reading all your stories of (attempted) anarchy at highschool, and the results, I'm amazed at how liberal Australia must be. At my (australian) school, the only way you'd get suspended would be to commit physically violent acts. Every year, year 11 Media Studies classes create magazines, which although they're censored to an extent (no swearing, etc), they still make some fairly political and anti-school statments. They're funded by the school.

Then again, we have a strict dress code, so you could still call it fascist...
posted by eoz at 12:43 AM on November 2, 2001


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