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Author Topic: School Violates 1st Amendment  (Read 1852 times)

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Offline matrsnot

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School Violates 1st Amendment
« on: March 11, 2008, 05:29:25 PM »

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Sunday NewsPublished: Mar 09, 2008
00:21 ESTLancaster
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tag_linking = !getCookie('no_tag_linking');            if(tag_linking) document.write("Don't ");         Don't Link TagsBy GIL SMART, Associate EditorOne day in December, Donald Miller III wore a gun to school. As you might imagine, it got him in trouble.
Donald
/center]Donald Miller III, a freshman at Penn Manor School, and his mother, Tina, decided to take action after...(more)
 
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The
/center]The back of Donald Miller III's shirt.
 
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/center]Counterclockwise from top: Attorney Leonard G. Brown III speaks with Donald Miller III and his mother,...(more)
 
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But the gun wasn't loaded; indeed, it wasn't a real gun at all. It was the image of a gun, printed on the front and back of a T-shirt — a shirt the Penn Manor freshman wore to honor his uncle, a soldier in the U.S. Army fighting in Iraq.

On the front pocket, in addition to the picture of the military sidearm, were the words: "Volunteer Homeland Security." On the back, superimposed over another image of the weapon, the words "Special issue — Resident — Lifetime License — United States Terrorist Hunting Permit — Permit No. 91101 Gun Owner — No Bag Limit."

They are, said Miller, 14, patriotic sentiments in a time of war. He feels pretty strongly about these things.

So do officials at the Penn Manor School District, who wanted him to turn his shirt inside out. When Miller refused, he got two days of detention.
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His parents, Donald and Tina Miller of Holtwood, got angry and called a lawyer.

And now a lawsuit has been filed in federal court, accusing Penn Manor of violating Miller's First Amendment rights. The Millers and their attorney, Leonard G. Brown III of the Lancaster firm Clymer & Musser, accuse the school district of following a "vague Orwellian policy" that throttles both patriotism and free speech.

Penn Manor says the case has less to do with free speech than it does guns.

In the post-Columbine era, said Kevin French, an attorney for Penn Manor, school districts are duty-bound to create a safe environment for students, a place where intimations of violence aren't permitted. District officials aren't trying to impugn Miller's patriotism, said French. But when someone brings even the image of a gun to school, he says, that violates school policy.
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And the district, he said, will fight to keep it intact.

The start

The incident happened Dec. 4, according to the federal complaint. But the story actually begins last spring.

That's when Miller's uncle, Brian Souders, shipped out to Iraq. He had been stationed at Fort Benning, Ga., and bought the shirt at the base post exchange, or PX, and gave it to Donald as a gift.

With his uncle on the front lines of the "War on Terror," Donald said he wanted to show his support. And so one day toward the end of eighth grade, he wore the shirt to school — and was admonished by Penn Manor Middle School officials. Donald didn't want to get in trouble, so he turned the shirt inside out.

But he didn't think that was right. In early December, he wore the shirt to Penn Manor High School. No one said a word about it all day, he said, until his final period, when a classmate complained to the teacher.

The teacher asked him to turn the shirt inside out, but he refused. Miller was sent to the principal's office. Once there, he said he was again told to turn the shirt inside out.

"I told them to call my parents," said Miller. And his refusal to comply resulted in detention.

Three days later attorney Brown sent a letter to Penn Manor Superintendent Donald Stewart asserting that the "strong-arm censorship by school officials amounts to content discrimination and is unconstitutional."

But, wrote Brown, the Millers wished to "resolve this issue amicably" and "avoid unnecessary litigation and media attention." Brown asked that the district rescind the detention, allow Miller to wear the shirt, provide training to district employees on the subject of students' constitutional rights — and pay attorney fees, about $2,500.

Initially, the district decided to make a concession: It agreed to drop a line from its "student expression policy" that prohibited speech seeking "to establish the supremacy of a particular religious denomination, sect or point of view." And in a Jan. 8 letter to Brown, district solicitor Robert J. Frankhouser, of the Lancaster law firm of Hartman Underhill & Brubaker, said Penn Manor might be willing to consider tinkering with other, similar policies.

But on the issue of guns, and the advocating of violence, the district vowed to "vigorously defend its policy and the application of policy in this instance," wrote Frankhouser. Students, he wrote, "may not wear clothing to school that advocates the use of force or urges the violation of law or school regulations.

"The shirt in question contains the image of a firearm and clearly advocates illegal behavior," he wrote.

That, he concluded, should be the end of the matter.

It wasn't. A week later Brown filed the lawsuit, asking the federal courts to declare Penn Manor's policies unconstitutional and to grant a permanent injunction forcing Penn Manor to let Miller to wear his shirt. The suit also seeks "nominal damages and compensatory damages," attorneys fees and costs, and "further relief as it is just and proper."

"Donald Miller wears the T-shirt to make the political and emotional statement that he supports his uncle, and all our armed forces, as they bravely exercise their duty to defend this great nation," Brown wrote in the federal complaint.

"The message that Mr. Miller's shirt conveyed was simply that the United States military and law enforcement personnel are actively engaged in a war against terrorists who seek to destroy this country. … Mr. Miller's shirt makes a political statement that he agrees with and supports the efforts of his uncle and the rest of our military," Brown wrote.

"Such a viewpoint may not be politically correct in Mr. Miller's classrooms, but his right to express his viewpoint is constitutionally protected."

A federal judge will hold a conference on the case March 31, to either reach a settlement or proceed.

The case is beginning to generate interest online, where the conservative news site WorldNetDaily.com published an article on the lawsuit last week. That story, like the federal complaint itself, focused on the alleged attempt to censor political, patriotic speech.

Contacted by the Sunday News, Penn Manor Superintendent Stewart said he had "nothing to add to the comments of our solicitor." He did, however, tell WorldNet Daily that, "It's the district's position the wording on the T-shirt advocated violation of the law and acts of violence.

"The district," he told WorldNet Daily, "feels it's taken an appropriate stance in terms of T-shirts or anything a student would wear that advocates acts of violence."

But Brown countered last week: "If you believe something is going to create violence, you have to show a history of that in Penn Manor," Brown said. "If this shirt was truly something creating a [dangerous] environment in school, it should have been picked up first thing."

School board president C. Willis Herr did not respond to a message seeking comment.

This would not be the first incident in which T-shirts at Penn Manor provoked controversy — in 1997, a group of about 30 Penn Manor students wore white T-shirts to school to proclaim white supremacy.

Still, attorney French, speaking on behalf of the district, said the Millers and Penn Manor "are talking about two different things." The Millers, and Brown, want this issue to be about freedom of speech, he said.

Penn Manor is talking about guns.

"In light of incidents of violence in schools," said French, both district officials and district parents tend to come down on the side of caution. "Students who come to school enjoy limited First Amendment rights," French said, "but the school district has the right to enforce policies that protect students. And all this has to be understood in the context of what's happening today — Columbine, Virginia Tech, Northern Illinois University."

"There's a much higher level of sensitivity these days," admits French.

"But it's based on reality."

Offline littlebit

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Re: School Violates 1st Amendment
« Reply #1 on: March 11, 2008, 10:04:31 PM »
There is no such thing as free speech in schools. If it is seen as a distraction, it will be removed. That was the policy when I was in Highschool. Doesn't most of our freedoms pertain to adults anyway? Just my opinion.
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Offline matrsnot

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Re: School Violates 1st Amendment
« Reply #2 on: March 12, 2008, 12:37:37 PM »
So they did not say anything about the dress code.  That I could have accepted.  As far as political speech, the schools seem to think all is ok, IF those ideas coincide with theirs.  The kids are being taught not to fight back against bullies or any other thing.  Just to lie down and die when the bad guy comes in with a gun.  Remember Virginia Tech?  This kid was expressing his loyalty to this country and to his father.  Nothing wrong with that as there is nothing wrong in killing a terrorist.  The kids are subject to the thought police at the schools and are not encouraged to think outside the box when it comes to the opinions of the teachers.  For that matter, why did they wait until the last period of the day before accosting him?  Some other kid complained, so with one minority opinion, the rest must fall in line.  Welcome to the "
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Offline Coyote

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Re: School Violates 1st Amendment
« Reply #3 on: March 12, 2008, 12:39:38 PM »
Agree.  Parent wants her 15 minutes of fame.

There is no such thing as free speech in schools. If it is seen as a distraction, it will be removed. That was the policy when I was in Highschool. Doesn't most of our freedoms pertain to adults anyway? Just my opinion.
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Offline matrsnot

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Re: School Violates 1st Amendment
« Reply #4 on: March 12, 2008, 04:12:48 PM »
Yes, teach the kids to bow down automatically to any authority, no matter how wrong they are.  These kids have their spirit taken away before they are allowed to grow up at all.  Teach them to think only their teachers know what political stance is best for them.  Teach them socialism is the best way to live.  That is what is being taught these days.  Waiting until the end of the day after ONE child complained and then taking drastic action is stupid and idiotic.  Of course, the administration had to be drastic.  We certainly cannot have guns in the shcools now can we?  Not even pictures of them.  Zero tolerance?  This borders in total idiocy on the  part of the school administration and the teachers involved and demonstrates a total lack of common sense.

Offline Coyote

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Re: School Violates 1st Amendment
« Reply #5 on: March 12, 2008, 04:21:41 PM »
Maybe just teaching them to respect and obey rules would be a start.
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Offline matrsnot

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Re: School Violates 1st Amendment
« Reply #6 on: March 12, 2008, 07:20:55 PM »
That is a parental issue, not a school issue

Offline Coyote

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Re: School Violates 1st Amendment
« Reply #7 on: March 12, 2008, 07:31:28 PM »
So the parent should decide which school rules their child should follow?  (smoking, talking, setting off fire alarms, etc.)  How about work rules?  If their parent tells them they don't have to wash their hands before they make your hamburger...then it's ok?

That is a parental issue, not a school issue
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Offline tpgunbiz

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Re: School Violates 1st Amendment
« Reply #8 on: March 12, 2008, 08:06:17 PM »
Its just a T-shirt. It isnt like it said he was gonna shoot the principle. its a humorous protest against terrorists......not teachers and students.  He wasnt smoking, talking, setting off fire alarms......he was wearing a t-shirt, which pertains to the current events of our country. people need to lighten up. I had the same thing on a poster in my shop for quite a while.
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Offline Coyote

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Re: School Violates 1st Amendment
« Reply #9 on: March 12, 2008, 08:17:33 PM »
If the school rule says, "no" then he should follow the rule.  When my son was in highschool, 1993, it was a rule in his school and he followed it.  That's 15 years folks.  A dumb thing I thought was the seniors couldn't take squirt guns the last day of school...pink, yellow, green plastic little things.  I didn't know there were squirt guns that look JUST like a 38 or a 45 handgun.  Because there would be a mom who said "well...if they can have the yellow squirt gun then my son can have the black one!"  So no one got to have one.  Same as shirts.  It's the rule...I say live with it and concentrate on your homework.
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Offline matrsnot

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Re: School Violates 1st Amendment
« Reply #10 on: March 12, 2008, 08:23:04 PM »
Maybe just teaching them to respect and obey rules would be a start.

This is what I was referring to about a parental issue.  And it is. This was attacked by the school, not as a violation of dress code, but an attacke against the right of free speech.  It is only a T shirt.  So let him alone and live with it.

Offline Strictly Confidential

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Re: School Violates 1st Amendment
« Reply #11 on: March 12, 2008, 09:39:28 PM »
As far as political speech, the schools seem to think all is ok, IF those ideas coincide with theirs.  The kids are being taught not to fight back against bullies or any other thing.  Just to lie down and die when the bad guy comes in with a gun.  Remember Virginia Tech?  This kid was expressing his loyalty to this country and to his father.  Nothing wrong with that as there is nothing wrong in killing a terrorist. 

ditto, plus karma.  Schools are full of libs who are working very hard to pacify America.  This country used to have teeth - now it has cavaties, in the forms of 'liberl ideas".
"All that is necessary for the forces of evil to win in the world is for enough good men to do nothing." --Edmund Burke

Offline okie the thread killer

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Re: School Violates 1st Amendment
« Reply #12 on: March 13, 2008, 02:34:15 AM »
This is so strange, because when I was in school, and a liberal, we would wear anti-war shirts. Things have changed so much. No wonder the country is afu
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Re: School Violates 1st Amendment
« Reply #13 on: March 13, 2008, 05:53:32 AM »
Sounds like more right wing fruit cakes, that want to use the schools for something besides getting an education for the children.