Court decision lays out rules in clear terms

Letter to the editor

Posted: Monday, May 15, 2006

School Board President Phyllis Carlson's front page complaint that "The 9th Circuit's decision has left the board and school administrators with no guidance as to where and when we can enforce our policy against messages promoting illegal drug use" (May 3) is one of the most idiotic and disingenuous statements I have heard from a public official in a long time. She either has not read the court's decision, which lays out the rules in clear, concise terms, or she is choosing to ignore what it says. In the hopes of helping Ms. Carlson avoid future liability for the district, I will repeat them here:

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• The district may not suppress a student's free speech rights off of school property.

• The district may not suppress a student's free speech rights outside of school-sponsored activities.

• Within school activities and on school grounds, the district may not suppress a student's free speech rights (including speech about drug policy) unless the speech directly causes a disturbance or interferes with the educational program.

• Students have a free speech right to criticize drug policy so long as they do so in a respectful and nondisruptive manner.

The guidance from the court is clear; Ms. Carlson is apparently ignoring it, because she doesn't like what it says. These simple rules are so well-established that the appeals court declined to grant Principal Morse immunity from the lawsuit. It ruled that any competent school official should have known them, and so should Ms. Carlson. The fact that she claims she doesn't is disturbing. What other well-established student or parent rights is the district going to violate so that board members and administrators can score political points?

Paul H. Grant


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