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OTHER ITA SITES:
Cocaine For President Bush OK
This post will review the case of Guiles v. Marineau, 461 F.3d 320 (2nd Cir 2006) cert denied June 29, 2007, another student freedom of speech case. The United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit held that a school could not censor a student's t-shirt where the shirt, at the top, has large print that reads "George W. Bush," below it is the text, "Chicken-Hawk-In-Chief." Directly below these words is a large picture of the President's face, wearing a helmet, superimposed on the body of a chicken. Surrounding the President are images of oilrigs and dollar symbols. To one side of the President, three lines of cocaine and a razor blade appear. In the "chicken wing" of the President nearest the cocaine, there is a straw. In the other "wing" the President is holding a martini glass with an olive in it. Directly below all these depictions is printed, "1st Chicken Hawk Wing," and below that is text reading "World Domination Tour."
The back of the T-shirt has similar pictures and language, including the lines of cocaine and the martini glass. The representations on the back of the shirt are surrounded by smaller print accusing the President of being a "Crook," "Cocaine Addict," "AWOL, Draft Dodger," and "Lying[**] Drunk Driver." The sleeves of the shirt each depict a military patch, one with a man drinking from a bottle, and the other with a chicken flanked by a bottle and three lines of cocaine with a razor. Without question Guiles's T-shirt uses harsh rhetoric and imagery to express disagreement with the President's policies and to impugn his character.
On June 29, 2007, The United States Supreme Court refused to review this case, although Justice Samuel Alito cautioned that schools could not censor political speech. This is significant in and of itself because it means that the Supreme Court does not want to shape the current status of the law in this area at the moment or they believe that it is significantly and sufficiently developed and this case offers no new opportunity to clarify the law. It could also mean that they just don't feel like dealing with this issue at the moment because others are more deserving of their attention.
Why can a student where a t-shirt of this nature at school, but a student cannot hold up a banner that read "Bong Hits 4 Jesus?" See, Morse, et al. v. Frederick, or my last post "No Bong Hits 4 Jesus." The difference between the two is simple and it all comes down to content; what was being said. When we look at the content "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" it appears to be empty of any political speech. Political Speech is among the most highly protected types of speech. The t-shirt in question is a profound statement of political speech. Where the "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" banner could have been construed as promoting drug use, the t-shirt in question is designed to highlight some of the Presidents alleged dabbling in drugs and alcohol and highlights the student's disgust with the current President and his character. This is a political statement and the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit overturned the lower court in line with centuries old case precedent protecting political speech.
The United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit denied the Defendant's argument that all illustrations of drugs promote drug use and are disruptive. The court reasoned that the Defendant could not overcome the argument that anti drug campaigns containing such images promote the use of drugs or were otherwise disruptive. The court ultimately directed the lower court to issue an injunction prohibiting the school from censoring the t-shirt or not allowing the student to where it. The court also held that the student's suspension should remain removed from the student's record. The disparity in the two cases comes down to the content of what was being said. It is further evidence that political speech in school will remain intact, while otherwise senseless and random images or promotion of illegal drug use will remained banned from the schoolhouse.
This article was written by Philadelphia Personal Injury Lawyer Douglas Whalen, he maintains a current legal news review blog at
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