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Monday, June 25, 2007

SCOTUS Decides Morse v Frederick

Supreme_court_20From washingtonpost.com: In Morse v. Frederick, the Supreme Court affirmed wide authority for school administrators to regulate students' speech, allowing principals to punish pupils who make any in-school speech or demonstration that may "reasonably be viewed" as promoting illegal drug use.

The finding came in a case in which a Juneau public high school teacher gave Joseph Frederick a 10-day suspension for unfurling a banner reading "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" as the school was gathering outside to watch the Olympic Torch Relay pass in 2002. Joseph, who has since graduated, sued the suspension was a violation of his constitutional right to free speech.

Though the Banner's message was admittedly ambiguous, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. wrote for the court majority that the school's principal, Deborah Morse, was not wrong to conclude that it promoted the use of an illegal substance, which was contrary to the Juneau school system's policy.

The dangers of illegal drug use are "serious," Roberts wrote, and the "First Amendment does not require schools to tolerate at school events student expression that contributes to those dangers," Roberts wrote.

Roberts' opinion was joined fully by Justices Antonin Scalia, Anthony M. Kennedy, Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr. Justice Stephen G. Breyer agreed with the majority that Morse should not be liable, but disagreed with its reasoning.

Justice John Paul Stevens, joined by Justices David H. Souter and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, dissented.

Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

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