Tag Archives: freedom of expression

Breaking the American Way

What would you do if you witnessed a person protest a professional’s work right outside the workplace?  Laura Laursen receives this treatment on her way to work in southern Illinois. She mentally prepares because she knows people will hate on her job… performing abortions.  Newsweek.com quotes her saying “I’ve gotten used to it by now… but if I were any other kind of physician, this kind of violence and harassment would not be apart of my daily job…”.  There are multiple protesters outside the clinic. In response the town has created “buffer zones”. The zones create a “bubble” around the the clinic that the protesters must be outside of.  Is this the American way?
The part of the first amendment that we are looking at reads “Congress shall make no law… prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble…”.  The buffer zones should not be allowed according to the constitution. Buffer zones prohibits the protesters practice their right of expression. Some people argue that the protesters are harassing the doctor, and they should be given barriers due to that.  However, harassing is illegal only if it is based on a person’s age, race, national origin, sex, religion, or disability. The law does not protect citizens from receiving hate for the person’s profession. The city must repeal the buffer zone, and Laura Laursen will be receiving harassment from protesters.  It is the American way.

 

 

“First Amendment.” LII / Legal Information Institute, 2010, https://www.law.cornell.edu/constitution/first_amendment.
Oclaborlaw.Com, 2018, http://www.oclaborlaw.com/labor5.pdf.
Solis, Marie. “Abortion Clinics Experiencing Surge in Death Threats, Harassment under Trump, Study Finds.” Newsweek, 9 May 2018, http://www.newsweek.com/abortion-clinics-death-threats-harassment-916184.
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Offensive Speech in Universities

When can universities censor students without violating free speech and the First Amendment?

Universities have always had a set of standards separate from the outside world. What might be acceptable on the streets could land a student in Dean of Students’ office. For example, flipping another driver off as he/she cuts you off does not have any repercussions and is actually seen quite often. On the other hand, a student giving their teacher the bird for not bumping their grade up will almost certainly result in consequences. Universities are allowed to do this without violating freedom of expression because they have a different set of community standards. Classrooms are a place for education and not much else, so something offensive that lies outside of this realm could be considered an obscenity. If it is preventing students from successfully learning, then the phrase or expression is obscene. The outside world does that not have this standard because it is solely devoted to learning. However, lately universities all around the country have been censoring a little too much.

A study done by Spiked Magazine released a ranking for schools in the UK highlighting which universities censored free speech the most. The report revealed that a majority of schools has “banned and actively censored” students’ free speech. In addition, Tom Slater, an editor for Spiked Magazine, revealed what some of the schools are banning. One school, he said, “Banned sombreros, and other such ‘racist’ attire”. Even groups centered around controversial debates such as abortion have been banned on campus, and students are upset. Many feel as though their freedom of speech has been violated by their universities. Although some opinions and words might be offensive, a lot of what universities censor can be used as an educational opportunity. One said that he is a “firm believer that the best way to challenge an idea is to discuss”. Universities are a place to learn not censor.

Although certain actions or words do need to be censored in the classroom, universities should not be censoring anything that seems mildly offensive. As long as it does not prevent students from learning successfully, it should not be banned. Just because something is offensive, does not mean it can not be discussed professionally and educationally. By toning down the amount of censorship, students might even be able to understand each other more effectively and create better environments within the school.

Works Cited:

“The suppression of free speech on university campuses is reaching epidemic levels; It’s easy to laugh at students who try to ban sombreros or applause, but new free speech rankings show how their censorious megalomania is getting out of hand.” Telegraph Online, 3 Feb. 2015. Student Resources in Context, http://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/A400023226/SUIC?u=mono131514&xid=48fd105e. Accessed 14 Feb. 2018.

“‘Why I’m no longer looking forward to university’; Supression of free speech has transformed universities into a much less exciting prospect for sixth form students, writes Carl du Jeu.” Telegraph Online, 24 July 2015. Student Resources in Context, http://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/A423008194/SUIC?u=mono131514&xid=ee9f24f6. Accessed 14 Feb. 2018.

 

Limited Money?

Should there be a limit or regulation on how much an individual can donate towards a political candidate? There are many reasons why or why not to go along with this because it is right on the border of being an issue with freedom of expression or not. I believe that money can be considered a form of free expression and that there should be a limit on how much one person can spend on one candidate. If there is no limit, the political candidates that have multiple connections to people of great wealth will definitely have a very high advantage and that is unfair to the candidates that don’t have those types of connections. It is simply unfair if one candidate has more wealthy people on their side where they can simply pull a million dollars out of their pocket and give them a huge advantage over the other candidate. Having a limit will definitely make the campaigns more fair for everyone because it will actually matter about how many people are with the candidate and not just how many wealthy people are with that candidate. Another thing it would help is the amount being spent on campaigns. It is at a very high rate right now and the limits would help keep the spending amounts lower. In conclusion, there should definitely be a limit to the amount an individual can donate towards a political candidate.

Speak Outs – Should there be a limit on campaign donations from individuals?

Speak Outs – Should there be a limit on campaign donations from individuals?. (2018). Annenberg Classroom. Retrieved 20 February 2018, from http://www.annenbergclassroom.org/speakout/should-there-be-a-limit-on-campaign-donations-from-individuals

Why Campaign Contribution Limits Matter | BillMoyers.com

Why Campaign Contribution Limits Matter | BillMoyers.com. (2013). BillMoyers.com. Retrieved 20 February 2018, from http://billmoyers.com/2013/09/19/why-campaign-contribution-limits-matter/

Does Banning Books Violate One’s First Amendment Right?

When it comes to banning books, many schools are continuing to ban more and more books. Though there may be fair reasoning to have some of these books banned, it can go against freedom of press, making banning books unjust, unless it is an obscenity. I believe some books that are banned are clearly meet the limit of being an obscenity, but sometimes they it really doesn’t meet the definition. Cornell law describes an obscenity laws as,prohibiting lewd, filthy, or disgusting words or pictures,” but they also mention, “Indecent materials or depictions, normally speech or artistic expressions, may be restricted in terms of time, place, and manner, but are still protected by the First Amendment.” Books like Harry Potter and Where’s Waldo really have no, just reason to be banned, especially when you tie it with definition. This violates the freedom of the press because you are prohibiting authors of their right to freedom of the press for no reason. But, I do believe there are certain cases where it is best to ban a book.

Only some books should be banned, only when they follow this definition of obscenity, and it isn’t appropriate for the age group reading it. Having read several books on the “Banned Book List” I know that some books on that list have no reason to be on there, but others are best to be deemed “okay” to have in schools base off of age, making it fair for them to be banned. When it comes to books such as The Color Purple and To Kill a Mockingbird, banning them or not should probably fluctuate based on age. Even though it isn’t discussed in the constitution or seen as a limit, there can be fair arguments for not wanting certain ages to read certain books. In the book The Color Purple, right away in the book there is a graphic rape described. As the rest of the book continues, there is a lot of important historical context and lessons that happen throughout, making it important for someone to read, but with the graphic rape in the beginning, and a few more scenes throughout, it’s best to put an age restriction on it because you don’t want someone reading it at a young age, making the definition of obscenity fluctuate based on age. Though I think To Kill a Mockingbird should not be banned, due to its high use of the “n word”, some disagree. In no way am I condoning the “n word”, but I believe it’s an important, and dark part of our history that shouldn’t be forgotten, but something we are taught, and we learn from. To Kill a Mockingbird does this in a way that describes life during that time, and someone can actually learn through a fictional story, vs. out of a textbook, what life was like. Having people in elementary and middle school read it, can be deemed worthy needing it to be banned because they don’t understand the time as well, but people in high school are almost adults, and need to learn about that part of history in a further context, and they should understand the context of that word, raising the argument that obscenities definition should fluctuate based on the age reading the book. When it comes to freedom of press, there are certain limits to it, and sometimes those limits vary, based on certain factors. Books are a learning tool for all who read them, and when it comes to banning them or not, books should not be banned unless it’s deemed an obscenity for the age group reading it, not because of personal reasons in order to follow The Constitution, the highest law of the land.

Sources

“Banned & Challenged Classics.” Advocacy, Legislation & Issues. N. p., 2013. Web. 15 Feb. 2018

“Obscenity.” LII / Legal Information Institute. N. p., 2018. Web. 12 Feb. 2018.

 

Should dress codes be allowed in schools?

Essential question: Does restriction of students clothing choices in school violate the freedom of speech clause of the First Amendment?  

 

Most students know about the first amendment and how it gives them many freedoms one of those freedoms being the freedom of expression. Some students in school believe that student dress codes or school uniforms go against this freedom they are given. In some senses school dress codes do but the dress code is there to prevent distractions to other students learning. In schools that have school dress codes they are trying to prevent the distractions that could come with students choosing what they can wear. Theses are valid concerns that school administration can  have there are many arguments that go against school dress codes.

Theses arguments against the dress codes and student uniforms are valid arguments. In crossen vs. Fatsi one student was told he needed to shave because it had gone against the school dress code. The dress code stated that “Students are to be neatly dressed and groomed, maintaining standards of modesty and good taste conducive to an educational atmosphere. It is expected that clothing and grooming not be of an extreme style and fashion.”. In the Supreme court ruling they said that the school board does not have the ability to state the grooming standards of students. In another school students are required to wear school uniforms. In the case of  Littlefield v. Florney students were told that they had to wear polo type shirts and blue or khaki color bottoms. If students were not in there uniform they would be pulled out of class and punished for not being compliant. This not only goes against the first amendment but it also disrupts student’s learning. Rather than students being able to express themselves in what they wear they are forced to look like everyone else showing that conformity is alright. In another school with a dress school uniform policy, some the Frudden’s parents of two young children tried to fight it. In the policy the students had to wear a school uniform or a nationally recognized organization on days the students have meetings. An example is boys scouts or girls scouts. On the first day of school the children didn’t wear there school uniform then on the second day of school they wore there soccer uniforms that were from the american youth soccer association. These students got called out of class and told to change because the team was not meeting on that day. From this the school is making the students miss class time to deal with something that was not a distraction and that was a very minimal problem.

In schools students should have the ability to choose how they would like to dress as long as it doesn’t create a distraction to other students in class. This would create a school environment that students are free to express themselves freely in a reasonable manner and not conform to others.  

 

“Crossen v. Fatsi, 309 F. Supp. 114 (D. Conn. 1970).” Justia Us Law, law.justia.com/cases/federal/district-courts/FSupp/309/114/2096028/.

VACCA, D. R. S.

CEPI Education Law Newsletter

Your Bibliography: Vacca, Dr. Richard S. CEPI Education Law Newsletter. 2018, https://cepi.vcu.edu/media/university-relations/cepi/pdfs/newsletters/2014-15/2014-9EdLawNewsletter.pdf. “FindLaw’s United States Fifth Circuit Case and Opinions.” Findlaw, caselaw.findlaw.com/us-5th-circuit/1408648.html.

 

How do schools decide which books to censor, and which to put on shelves?

Books are banned for many reasons, some are good reasons, others not so good of reasons. One example of a reason to ban a book is that of the language that is used and being inappropriate for a curriculum, like in the book To Kill a Mockingbird. Parents are trying to get the book removed from the English curriculum at Monona Grove High School because it uses a racial slur 48 times.(4) The parents feel that it’s racial harassment by having African-American students read the book and that there are different books that teach the same topics in a more contemporary way.(4) The school decided to keep the book in the curriculum on a 4-1 vote. In this example they kept the book on the shelf because the school decided that they “believe in telling the truth” and “students can make up their own minds.”(5).

A different example, with a book that’s actually banned, was Catcher in the Rye. Many schools have banned this book for the profanity on its own, let alone to the other actions the main character does as well as his comments about people commonly discriminated against. Although a classic, schools do still obtain the right to remove a book from its’ shelves or its’ curriculum if it believes the book is to be too inappropriate for students to read(3). Which in this case, a fair amount of schools found it too inappropriate, in Illinois a school banned it for alcohol abuse, and in South Dakota, a school banned it for its’ sexual practice.(6). 

I think schools obtain the right to ban books but only if it’s actually a problem or inappropriate. For example, wanting to remove To Kill a Mocking Bird from the curriculum because you believe it’s wrong for African-American students to read, I can understand that. But that book goes across some racial issues and to solve problems you have to talk about them first.

Sources:

5 Notable Banned-Book Cases for Banned Books Week(3)

“5 Notable Banned-Book Cases For Banned Books Week.” NWSidebar. N. p., 2014. Web. 14 Feb. 2018. -Used to read about a case that, in a way, set a bar for banning books

https://nwsidebar.wsba.org/2014/09/26/banned-books-week/

Journal, K.(4)

Journal, Karen. “Charging Racism, Cottage Grove Parents Want Harper Lee Book Barred From Classroom.” madison.com. N. p., 2018. Web. 16 Feb. 2018. 

http://host.madison.com/wsj/news/local/education/local_schools/charging-racism-cottage-grove-parents-want-harper-lee-book-barred/article_422a6b7c-562f-5876-aca8-1c7faf5f4dec.html

-Used 4 and 5 for information about the ruling of To Kill a Mocking Bird

Committee votes to keep ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ in class curriculum(5)

“Committee Votes To Keep ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ In Class Curriculum.” WISC. N. p., 2018. Web. 17 Feb. 2018.

https://www.channel3000.com/news/committee-votes-to-keep-to-kill-a-mockingbird-in-class-curriculum/701223913

Why?, W.(6)

Why?, Who. “Who Banned Catcher In The Rye And Why? | Academic About Movies/Music/Tv, Pop Culture/Trends, School/College And Social Issues/Civics.” Teenink.com. N. p., 2012. Web. 17 Feb. 2018. -Used this to read about why Catcher in the Rye was banned.

http://www.teenink.com/nonfiction/academic/article/512353/Who-Banned-Catcher-in-the-Rye-and-Why/

Burning the Flag? Is That Legal?

Is burning the flag illegal? Believe it or not, the 1st Amendment protects the right to do so. This is considered symbolic speech, which is similar to a protest or political expression, and is protected by the 1st Amendment under freedom of speech/expression. Protesting the government because you disagree with decisions or policies isn’t illegal.

One of the most infamous instances occurred when a man named Gregory Lee Johnson burned an American flag outside a convention center. The 1984 Republican National Convention was being held there and he wanted to protest Ronald Reagan’s policies. He was arrested because of this act and put on trial. Texas courts convicted Johnson but he appealed, claiming his actions as “symbolic speech” and were protected by the 1st Amendment. His case was taken to the Supreme Court, they ruled in favor of Johnson. He exercised freedom of speech and the public being outraged at his actions wasn’t a reason to convict Johnson. People argued that he was disrespecting those who have fought for this country and were offended by his actions. Similarly people claimed the same things when more recently, NFL players started kneeling for the National Anthem protesting the racial injustice and police brutality prevalent in the United States. President Trump even made statements on the protest claimed that kneeling during the National Anthem should be illegal. The protest became about a lack of patriotism and respect for military. Although this caused a wave of anger among many, players were exercising their rights to freedom of speech.

America was built on rebellion to become a free country. Freedom of press, freedom of religion, freedom of speech. Protesting is how we got here. Political expression is what makes this country great, not everyone agrees with the government and we can tell them that. Everyone has a voice and the right to express themselves under the 1st Amendment.

Works Cited:
Branch, John. “National Anthem Protests Sidelined by Ambiguity.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 1 Jan. 2018, http://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/01/sports/nfl-national-anthem-protests.html.
“From the Colonists to Kaepernick–NYU’s ‘First Amendment Watch’ on the History of Symbolic Protest.” Newswise = Smart News Connection, http://www.newswise.com/articles/from-the-colonists-to-kaepernick–nyu%E2%80%99s-%E2%80%9Cfirst-amendment-watch%E2%80%9D-on-the-history-of-symbolic-protest.
History.com Staff. “First Amendment.” History.com, A&E Television Networks, 2017, http://www.history.com/topics/first-amendment.