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Government schools must respect free speech

By Scott Tibbs, April 15, 2005

----Original Message Follows----
From: "Scott Tibbs" <tibbs1973@hotmail.com>
Reply-To: tibbs1973@yahoo.com
To: bbrewer@mccsc.edu, swanzer@mccsc.edu, vfreelan@mccsc.edu, jmuehlin@mccsc.edu, tgrossi@mccsc.edu, lskelton@mccsc.edu, chbrown@mccsc.edu
CC: R61@IN.gov, S40@IN.gov, R60@IN.gov
Subject: Government schools must respect free speech.
Date: Fri, 15 Apr 2005 09:36:45 -0500

To the members of the MCCSC School Board:

Yesterday's Herald-Times contained a disturbing article that revealed a violation of free speech rights at Bloomington High School North. Two female students protested against the observance of the "National Day of Silence" by wearing shirts that said "God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve". The girls were forced to wear their coats to cover the message on the back of their shirts.

An assistant principal, Andrea Mobley, said that "the dress code at North prohibits anything that singles out a particular group." If that is the case, then the students who were wearing silver tape across their mouths and small rainbow ribbons were also in violation of the dress code. The difference is that the students who were punished and the students who were not had different opinions on the same topic.

Ironically, the school forced the two students to violate the dress code, which states: "Items primarily designed to be worn outside may not be worn to the classroom. Students are to put coats, hats and jackets in lockers."

I suspect that the "enforcement" of the dress code was actually content-based discrimination against a conservative ideological viewpoint. Students supportive of homosexual rights were left alone while students opposed to homosexual rights were punished. This is a clear violation of the First Amendment to the Constitution. Furthermore, MCCSC cannot selectively enforce the dress code.

While I understand that a dress code is appropriate and necessary in high schools, censorship of political speech and selective enforcement of the rules cannot be practiced by the government schools. I think it would be appropriate for MCCSC to issue a public apology to the girls whose rights were violated and to promise to respect students' Constitutional rights in the future.

If MCCSC continues to show disrespect for individual liberties, I suggest the Legislature may wish to review the funding MCCSC gets from the state of Indiana and use the power of the purse strings to "persuade" MCCSC to follow the Constitution and the rule of law.

Scott Tibbs