A twelve year old girl gets a bead kit for Christmas. She makes herself a Red White and Blue necklace to show her support for her four relatives serving our country in Iraq and to show her own patriotism. Of course the Schenectady City School District opposes her wearing the necklace because they have an anti-gang dress code rule that forbids wearing anything that could be "construed" as gang-related. Not that anyone knows of a gang with the Red White and Blue as their gang colors. Not that there is even a gang problem in the schools. Thank God the district decided to not let that stop them from doing something stupid. After all they're school administrators! Such are the facts that lead to the decision in Grzywna v. Schenectady City School District, 05-CV-0187.
I think more school teachers should be required to take Law Courses and Courses in the US Constitution so that they could teach basic civics and walk the walk they are supposed to be able to talk.
I have blogged about this before and probably will again. It is important that we foster a spirit of patriotism in our young people. It is just as important that we understand our Right to Free Speech. Fortunately this girl's mom understands the need to protect her daughter's rights. Seems she has done pretty good fostering a spirit of patriotism too.
Speaking of knowing our rights, lets look at the rights involved here. The First Amendment says (in part):
"Congress shall make no law...Abridging the freedom of speech." That seems easy enough to understand.
The Fourteenth Amendment applies the Bill of Rights to the states with the words: "All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws."
Now the decision in this case is complicated. It basically held that the young girl in this case has a right similar to an adult's right to express her patriotism. The First Amendment does not always protect kids the way it does adults. I have more on the decision and it's niceties at our sister blog Long Island (Criminal)Trial Law.
Meanwhile as my friend Dennis Kennedy would say here is the money quote:
"Many school district officials became so enamored with their own power over these kids that they lose sight of both reality and common sense," Mr. Keach said. "They don't have a gang problem and they know she is not in a gang."
Mr. Keach is seeking a permanent injunction barring the school from punishing Ms. Furbert — she had already been threatened with in-school suspension — as well as damages and fees.
Oh when will they ever learn?