A few years ago, a high school student named Joseph Frederick was punished for unfurling a banner that read “bong hits 4 Jesus” and subsequently quoting Thomas Jefferson to his principal. He sued, and won, but the principal brought the case to the Supreme Court. The principal (and her lawyers, who include Ken Starr) is essentially arguing that schools should have the right to silence all speech with which they disagree. This could include artistic speech, academic work, and discussion of political issues (such as youth rights or drug policy) where there is room for legitimate debate. The National Youth Rights Association strongly supports Joseph Frederick and the first amendment.

Today the Supreme Court heard oral arguments from each side. The National Youth Rights Association participated in and helped organize a Students for Sensible Drug Policy led protest in front of the court. The rally was well attended, and NYRA members traveled from as far as Michigan to participate. Protesters held signs that read “free speech 4 students” as well as a large “free speech 4 students banner” designed to look like the “bong hits 4 Jesus” banner that caused all the controversy. There was a lot of media coverage of this event.

Throughout the United States, the rights of students in public schools are systematically violated. Students are subjected to drug tests, unreasonable searches, and censorship. School teachers and administrators treat Tinker V Des Moines, the landmark Supreme Court ruling that guaranteed Constitutional rights in public schools, as nothing more than a nuisance that must be circumvented. If a pending Supreme Court case rules in favor of such an authoritarian administrator, this kind of unacceptable behavior could become the law of the land.

NYRA extends its sincere gratitude to all the members who attended the rally, particularly Kris and Devin, who traveled a great distance. NYRA also thanks the Students for Sensible Drug Policy for their work in organizing the protest.