Or ‘Impeach George W. Bush’, it is a matter of free speech. It wasn’t even on the school campus.
Morse v. Frederick is a First Amendment student free speech case argued before the Supreme Court of the United States on March 19, 2007. The case involves Joseph Frederick, a then 18-year-old high school senior in Juneau, Alaska, now 24, who was suspended for 10 days after displaying a “Bong Hits 4 Jesus” banner across the street from his high school during the Winter Olympics Torch Relay in 2002.
In January 2002, students were released from Juneau-Douglas High School to watch the Olympic torch pass by. Frederick, who had not attended school that day, joined some friends on the sidewalk across from the high school (off school grounds). Frederick and his friends waited for the television cameras so they could unfurl a banner reading “Bong Hits 4 Jesus.” When they displayed the banner, then-principal Deborah Morse ran across the street and seized it.
Morse initially suspended Joseph Frederick for five days for violating the school district’s anti-drug policy, but increased the suspension to 10 days after he refused to give the names of his fellow participants and quoted Thomas Jefferson on free speech. Frederick administratively appealed his suspension to the Superintendent, who denied his appeal but limited it to the time Frederick had already spent out of school prior to his appeal to the Superintendent (eight days). Frederick then appealed to the Juneau School Board, which upheld the suspension on March 19, 2002. On April 25, 2002, Frederick filed a §1983 lawsuit against Morse and the school board in the United States District Court for the District of Alaska claiming they violated his federal and state constitutional rights to free speech.
Kenneth Starr, continuing to put his considerable might behind things that are of vital importance to the nation brings this case before the Supreme Court. He will make it about drugs and dirty hippies, it is really about free speech:
JUNEAU, Alaska – Former Whitewater special counsel Kenneth Starr petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to take up Alaska’s “Bong Hits 4 Jesus” case, a dispute involving a high school student, a banner and a tough school policy.
Starr, who gained national prominence while investigating former President Clinton’s Whitewater land deal and relationship with Monica Lewinsky, filed the petition Monday on behalf of the Juneau School District in response to a March ruling by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Frederick, then a senior, was off school property when he hoisted the banner but was suspended for violating the school’s policy of promoting illegal substances at a school-sanctioned event.
“The principal’s actions were so outrageous, basically leaving school grounds and punishing a student for a message that is not damaging to the school,” said his attorney, Doug Mertz.
Superintendent Peggy Cowan said clarification is needed on the rights of administrators when it comes to disciplinary action of students who break the district’s drug message policy.
“The district’s decision to move forward is not disrespectful to the First Amendment or the rights of students,” she said. “This is an important question about how the First Amendment applies to pro-drug messages in an educational setting.”
If the principal had had a sense of humor and just laughed it off, this would never have become a case. Either way this case goes, students everywhere will continue to challenge the limits of free speech.
Update: The Washington Post:
When a joke is taken seriously, that’s irony, but when it’s taken so seriously that the Supreme Court is called upon to determine how future jokes can be made, that’s meta-irony. And yet, there it was, a Borat-like moment in the most hallowed of judicial halls: the Morse V. Frederick case. At question in the narrow interpretation: Was it wrong for an Alaska high school principal to tear down her student’s banner during an off-campus field trip because it read “Bong Hits 4 Jesus?” And, despite the absurdity of hearing justices parse the minutia of that “sophomoric” prank, what was at stake in the wider scope could not have been more serious: the regulation of free speech within America’s public schools.
…a more narrow focus on the specifics of this case is necessary to further define what constitutes disruption and free speech. And this is where the oral arguments become really ironic. It appears that because Frederick’s banner was a joke, and not a political statement (protected under Tinker V. Des Moines), he might be on shakier ground. The justices seemed to hint that if in the school’s mind he was encouraging drug use rather than advocating its legalization, tearing down the banner may have been justified. That is to say, had it read “Vote Yes For Bong Hits” or “Give Pot A Chance” or “Make Marijuana Mandatory,” he may have been better protected. However, as one reader noted — and this case seems to exemplify — humor and satire that point out absurdity are often vehicles for political statements. Take away students’ capacity to mock authority, and you undermine political expression. Protect it, and every class clown will test and push the limits further. Therefore, it would seem no matter which way the Court leans, the joke’s on them, and us.
I disagree with MissLaura and others who claim that progressives should settle for a resolution that does not end the war and does provide ongoing funding and authorization for years of continued occupation, in order to forestall a weaker compromise.
It would be weakness to settle for this; it would also be wrong.
I would vote
Update: Barbara Lee is now supporting this bill, “I have struggled with this decision, but I finally decided that, while I cannot betray my conscience, I cannot stand in the way of passing a measure that puts a concrete end date on this unnecessary war.”
Researchers investigating the role of cannabis in cancer therapy reveal it has the potential to destroy leukaemia cells, in a paper published in the March 2006 edition of Letters in Drug Design & Discovery. Led by Dr Wai Man Liu, at Barts and the London, Queen Mary’s School of Medicine and Dentistry, the team has followed up on their findings of 2005 which showed that the main active ingredient in cannabis, tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, has the potential to be used effectively against some forms of cancer. Dr Liu has since moved to the Institute of Cancer in Sutton where he continues his work into investigating the potential therapeutic benefit of new anti-cancer agents.
It has previously been acknowledged that cannabis-based medicines have merit in the treatment of cancer patients as a painkiller; appetite stimulant and in reducing nausea, but recently evidence has been growing of its potential as an anti-tumour agent. The widely reported psychoactive side effects and consequent legal status of cannabis have, however, complicated its use in this capacity. Although THC and its related compounds have been shown to attack cancer cells by interfering with important growth-processing pathways, it has not hitherto been established exactly how this is achieved.
Now Dr Liu and his colleagues, using highly sophisticated microarray technology – allowing them to simultaneously detect changes in more than 25,000 genes in cells treated with THC – have begun to uncover further the existence of crucial processes through which THC can kill cancer cells and potentially promote survival. Further, Dr Liu found that the mechanism of cannabis may be independent of the presence of receptors – proteins found on the surface of cells to which other signalling molecules bind. Binding of molecules to receptors elicits a response in the cell, be it growth or death. The finding that cannabis action may not require the presence of these receptors introduces the possibility that the drug may be used more widely as the cancer cell’s dependence on the cannabis receptor is removed.
Whilst leukaemia treatment is on the whole successful, some people cannot be treated with conventional therapy – 25 per cent of children with leukaemia fail to respond to traditional treatment leaving their prognosis outcome poor. Dr Liu’s research findings provide a crucial first step towards the development of new therapies that can eradicate a deadly disease which affects millions of children and adults worldwide.
Dr Liu said: “It is important to stress that these cannabis-like substances are far removed from the cannabis that is smoked. These novel compounds have been specifically designed to be free of the psychoactive features, whilst maintaining anti-cancer action. Ultimately, understanding the fundamental mechanisms of these compounds will provide us with insights into developing new drugs that can be used to effectively treat cancers.”
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