An F for vulgarity, an A for free speech
There has been both good commentary and handwringing in the education
blogosphere over the
recent decision in A.B. v. State
(Ind.App.2007). For example, see
van 't Hooft
For those of you who are interested, here's my comment on Dave Sherman's post:
Dave, please see
and my online presentation at
In the case you cite,
A.B. v. State (Ind.App.2007), the Greencastle Middle School student
posted the following message on MySpace:
Hey you piece of greencastle sh-t. What
the f-ck do you think of me [now] that you can['t] control me? Huh? Ha ha ha
guess what I'll wear my f-cking piercings all day long and to school and you
can['t] do sh-t about it! Ha ha f-cking ha! Stupid bastard! Oh and kudos to
whomever made this ([I'm] pretty sure I know who). Get a
Here's what the court said:
A.B. openly criticizes Gobert's imposed
school policy on decorative body piercings and forcefully indicates her
displeasure with it. While we have little regard for A.B.'s use of vulgar
epithets, we conclude that her overall message constitutes political speech.
Addressing a state actor, the thrust of A.B.'s expression focuses on explicitly
opposing Gobert's action in enforcing a certain school policy.
court also found insufficient harm to result from A.B.'s speech
the State failed to produce any
evidence that A.B.'s expression inflicted particularized harm analogous to
tortuous injury on readily identifiable private interests as required to rebut
A.B.'s claim of political speech.
One of the key aspects of libel is
that you have to prove harm to your reputation. It appears that the court in
this case viewed this as a student spouting off on a school policy issue, which
was well within her rights, and found insufficient harm to the principal's
reputation to warrant a finding of libel.
Dave, you say that you're
worried about this happening to you. Is this any different than a post that
said, "I disagree with Mr. Sherman's policy on piercings? Who does he think he
is? He can't control me. I'm going to do whatever I want and there's nothing he
can do about it. I hate you, Mr. Sherman."?
As you know, you need to
have a thick skin when you're a principal!
Finally, I'll close with some quotes. My favorite school law quote of all
time is the one from the Barnette case:
- Without debate, without criticism, no administration and no country can
succeed and no republic can survive. - Pres. John F. Kennedy
like sheep to the slaughter. - Pres. George Washington
scrupulous protection of Constitutional freedoms of the individual, if we are
not to strangle the free mind at its source and teach youth to discount
important principles of our government as mere platitudes. - West Virginia
believe in it at all. - Noam Chomsky
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A disturbing interview given by a KGB defector in 1984 describes America of today and outlines four stages of mass brainwashing used by the KGB.
- Bezmenov described this process as "a great brainwashing" which has four basic stages.
- The first stage is called "demoralization" which takes from 15 to 20 years to achieve.
- According to the former KGB agent, that is the minimum number of years it takes to re-educate one generation of students that is normally exposed to the ideology of its country.
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- When a company reaches the top of the ladder, they typically kick it away so that others cannot climb up on it. The aim? So that another company can't compete.
- When this happens in the pharmaceutical world, certain companies stay at the top of the ladder, through broadly-protected patents, at the cost of everyday people benefitting from increased competition.
- Since companies have worked out how to legally game the system, Amin argues we need to get rid of this "one size fits all" system, which treats product innovation — "tweaks" — the same as product invention.
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