Pre-AP English 10
8 March 2013
Free, but Not Free
Censorship is the “suppression of information, ideas, or artistic expression” (Haimon). Censorship has been around for a long time, since ancient Athens. Socrates was killed for “corrupting the youth” with ideas the government disapproved of (Haimon). In the United States of America, students are still being affected by censorship that happens in their learning environment. Books are being taken away, stories to be put in the school newspaper are being removed, and clothing is being censored. Courts determined that students in America’s public high schools do have First Amendment rights, but their rights are limited.
Every person has their own viewpoint on censorship. A reason against censorship is everyone has First Amendment rights. Freedom of press and speech should give students the right to write and publish all the stories they want to put in the school paper. Freedom of assembly and religion should give students the right to express their beliefs without getting penalized. (Haimon) Things censored could help a student when they go off to college, such as Shakespeare. (Marino) A reason for censorship is people being afraid of ideas, thinking that ideas will hurt others instead of benefit them. Books that are censored contain profanity, graphic details; they also illustrate “unpatriotic or immoral ideologies” (Haimon). Textbooks and library books are often censored because people feel the book could undermine children’s values (Haimon).
Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District was a United States Supreme Court case that set the first precedent for student rights in public school. In 1965, siblings John and Mary Beth Tinker joined their parent’s protest against the Vietnam War by wearing black armbands. School officials heard of the idea and said if they saw a student wearing an armband the student would be asked to remove it. If a student did not remove the armband they would be suspended till it was removed. The Tinkers were well aware of the consequences that would follow their actions, but they did it anyway. The Tinkers took the school to district court to ask for “injunction preventing the school board from taking disciplinary action against them” (Mikula and Mabunda “Tinker” 585.) The court ruled against them, the Tinkers then took the school to federal court. The court ruled in favor of the Tinkers, saying they were “engaging in symbolic political speech” (Mikula and Mabunda “Tinker” 585) which is also protected by First Amendment rights. The court made the decision because the Tinker’s protest was not disruptive. (Mikula and Mabunda “Tinker” 584-586.)
Like Tinker, Lowry v. Watson Chapel School District also involved a uniform policy. The reason he controversy started because the school banned jewelry and other accessories that went over school uniforms. On October 6 the 11th and 12th graders wore black wristbands without covering any part of their uniform. The students who wore the black wristbands were suspended. However, students who wore white wristbands with the verse 1st of Timothy 4:12 had no disciplinary action taken against them. Chris Lowry and a few other students filed suit, saying that the school had violated their rights. On February 22, 2007 the students redid their claim; it now said that the school had taken away their rights according to the 14th Amendment. On August 22, the judge ruled against Lowry, saying the school had not violated any of the students’ rights according to the 14th amendment, nor had the uniform take away rights according to the 1st Amendment. The judge also said that the school had the right to suspend any student that did not follow school rules. (Zirkel 308)
Like Tinker and Lowry, Island Trees Union Free School District Board of Education v. Pico also had an issue with censorship, only instead of uniforms it was with library books. The problem started in September 1975,