Closing the Curtain on Student Speech
A play interpreting the Iraq War at Wilton (CT) High School was canceled by principal Timothy Canty under concerns about context and balance just one week prior to opening. This follows mandates to include only quotes from well-known people in the school yearbook for fear of cryptic messages, a requirement that all student posters receive adminstrative approval prior to their display, and a blanket ban on bandanas on account of gang connotations.
Such administrative actions are probably defensible under Supreme Court precedent, especially the Hazelwood case from 1988 that enabled censorship of school-sponsored publications and events for "legitimate pedagogical purpose(s)." The Morse v. Frederick (aka Bong Hits) decision may change the student speech landscape, but expect only slight alterations to this balance. Regardless, the age-old clash between students, teachers, and adminstrators continues both within and without the schoolhouse gate.