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When free speech is not free speech

By Scott Tibbs, April 15, 2005

Follow-up on my post letter to the MCCSC School Board on free speech issues:

Some argue that the shirts that were censored constituted "taunting" of other students, or were "harassment", or were disruptive to the educational environment. On the fist two, the message on the shirts was certainly confrontational. However, no one is alleging that the two girls who were forced to violate the dress code by wearing their coats over the "offensive" shirts harassed any homosexual students individually. They were making a public statement critical of homosexuality in response to other students' public statements in support of homosexuality. By that logic, they could have been deemed to be "harassing" if they had a letter critical of homosexuality published in the newspaper.

As to the shirts being "disruptive", that is a dangerous standard to use. Virtually any speech on a controversial political, social or cultural issue could be deemed "disruptive" if some people are offended by it and act on that feeling of offense. Should students expressing their opinions be subject to censorship if others are disruptive in response to free speech?

Let's call a spade a spade here. The reality is that a government school official decided she did not like some views expressed on the "Day of Silence", and censored those views while permitting others to express the opposite view.