Pamphlets at School
VOLOKH at law.ucla.edu
Fri Nov 5 10:05:47 PST 2004
(1) It seems to me that one of the jobs of high schools is to teach maturity to students; and 15, an age where many students are having sex and some are committing crimes, is probably a good age for students to learn that, even though there are a few anti-Semitic vandals, one shouldn't be fearful of all Christians who want to convert Jews. We certainly think that students shouldn't ascribe the crimes of a few blacks to blacks generally, or the racism of some whites to whites generally.
Likewise, that there are some anti-Semitic thugs committing occasional crimes shouldn't, I think, lead to a reduction of the rights of Christians who want to convert Jews to Christianity. And to the extent that students connect the two, and end up becoming afraid of proselytizing Christians generally because of the actions of some vandals, we should teach them to resist the connection, rather than endorsing the connection ourselves.
(2) I do not think that the rules on the street should be identical to those in K-12 school. Tinker quite correctly concluded that schools ought to be free to restrict speech that seems genuinely likely to materially disrupt the educational process -- though, as Tinker itself held, that a few people are offended doesn't itself equal the constitutionally required disruption. I'm not sure that the speech here is disruptive enough under the Tinker standard (or at least no more than the black armbands would be). But I'd be happier if the discussion focused on disruption, rather than on supposed intimidation or supposed harassment, since it seems to me that a focus on the latter terms would require stretching them quite substantially.
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