On October 29th, 2016, during a UW-Madison football game at Camp Randall, there was a man found wearing a costume acting like Barack Obama was being lynched. One man wearing a prisoner outfit and a Barack Obama mask on his face, a Hillary Clinton mask on the back of his head, and a noose around his neck. The other man involved, worse normal clothes with a Donald Trump Mask on. This man was seen holding the noose up that was on the other man’s neck. The assimilated the lynching of both Clinton and Obama. In terms of this being within the two men’s freedom’s of speech and expression, it is. The only thing that is illegal to do under the context of the president is to say something. There is nothing about acting out a President’s death. Someone is not allowed to say “I want to kill the President” or “Someone should kill the President”. Doing what these men did is highly offensive, but is within their rights. The one way this could be pushed to fall outside the lines of freedom of speech is obscenity. This states that “any utterance or act that strongly offends the prevalent morality of the time”. Meaning, if this offended the majority of the stadium, then this act can be considered outside the boundaries of freedom of speech and expression.
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.
“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.
Essential Question: Is censorship in schools an example of Obscenity?
The school system is very strict of what they can or can’t show you. There are all kinds of censorship that the the school system portrays on the student body. “Teachers, principals, and school administrators make decisions all the time about which books and materials to retain, add or exclude from the curriculum”. “As the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) and International Reading Association (IRA) note, there is an important distinction between selection based on professional guidelines and censorship: ‘Whereas the goal of censorship is to remove, eliminate or bar particular materials and methods, the goal of professional guidelines is to provide criteria for selection of materials and methods’.” When a book has swearing or bad words in it, but it’s used for educational purposes does that make it obscenity? There were lots of books that were banned from schools all around America when it is really showing us students how life was at that time in the past. When teaching the english language we need to have examples of both the good and the bad. When dealing with American history the best way to teach us it not filter out everything. There was a time the Supreme Court considered whether a local school board violated the constitution by removing books from the school library, it was held that the right to receive ideas is a necessary predicate to the recipient ‘s meaningful exercise of their own rights of speech, press, and political freedom. Most censorship of materials and restrictions are commonly prompted by public complaints causing the library board or school administration to be mindful of the importance of their neighbor’s religious values, moral sensibilities, and protecting children from offensive materials. So really the ordinary citizens are the driving force behind the challenges to the internet, information, and ideas. Even though there will always be controversy on school censorship, I know that it is an example of obscenity that needs to come to a mutual agreement in the future.
Us, About et al. “The First Amendment In Schools: Censorship.” National Coalition Against Censorship. N. p., 2018. Web. 18 Feb. 2018.How does the first amendment protect what teachers say in the classroom? http://ncac.org/resource/the-first-amendment-in-schools-censorship
“First Amendment And Censorship.” Advocacy, Legislation & Issues. N. p., 2008. Web. 18 Feb. 2018. http://www.ala.org/advocacy/intfreedom/censorship
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.
Censorship in school is very controversial subject that could violate our obscenity limits under the First Amendment, everyone has different opinions and there is a very thin line on what is acceptable to some and what isn’t. Obscenity can be defined as something you know that is wrong when you see it, based on community standards. There have been many cases where students believe their rights are being violated by the school for not allowing them to wear or speak on something they believe in. One example is the Tinker vs. Des Moines case where about 4 students wore black armbands to school to protest the war and the school told them to take them off or go home. When they didn’t take them off they got suspended and were fighting that their rights were violated. The court ruled that school officials could not censor speech or actions unless it was disruptive or hurtful to others and in this case a plain black armband did not. This case is a huge point for future students and knowing what is right and what is wrong in the school setting. On the other hand, there are many parents that are concerned on what is happening in our schools and if it is too obscene. There are many fighting in Mississippi and even here at our school to get To Kill a Mockingbird removed from our curriculum because it is seen as offensive and hurtful to children of a young age. This book is supposed to make you uncomfortable and initiate discussion on how these situations they went through in the book are wrong. Censorship should be based on the schools rules and if a parent does not want their child reading a book they should be allowed a different option but it should not be taken away for everyone. I believe that schools should come together with students and make rules about what is obscene based on the setting and decide what they should censor. I think if we all agreed we wouldn’t have problems with the First Amendment and what is allowed and what isn’t. In the end it is hard to come to a conclusion on these problems because everyone has different beliefs on what should be allowed in school.
American Civil Liberties Union. (2018). Tinker v. Des Moines – Landmark Supreme Court Ruling on Behalf of Student Expression. [online] Available at: https://www.aclu.org/other/tinker-v-des-moines-landmark-supreme-court-ruling-behalf-student-expression [Accessed 19 Feb. 2018].
NBC News. (2018). Opinion | Why do we still teach ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ in schools?. [online] Available at: https://www.nbcnews.com/think/opinion/why-are-we-still-teaching-kill-mockingbird-schools-ncna812281 [Accessed 19 Feb. 2018].
STUART TAYLOR Jr., S. (2018). Court Hears School Censorship Case. [online] Nytimes.com. Available at: http://www.nytimes.com/1987/10/14/us/court-hears-school-censorship-case.html [Accessed 19 Feb. 2018].
United States Courts. (2018). Facts and Case Summary – Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier. [online] Available at: http://www.uscourts.gov/educational-resources/educational-activities/facts-and-case-summary-hazelwood-v-kuhlmeier [Accessed 19 Feb. 2018].
Many people know the First Amendment: the right to expression, the right to peacefully assemble, freedom of the press, the right to petition the government, etcetera. However, not many people know where the boundaries of these rights lie. People push these boundaries all the time and right now college campuses are but one example. Administrators at colleges are attempting to enforce speech codes. Yet, does enforcing speech codes violate the right to free expression described in the First Amendment? How far can speech codes go before the contradict the rights to free expression and peaceful protesting described in the First Amendment?
There are many ways speech codes could be enforced. But depending on how they are applied, they could break the First Amendment. A few forms of expression, specifically in regards to free speech, that are not protected by the First Amendment are slander or libel, fighting words, and obscenity. This means that someone can not go in front of a crowd and defame, insult, threaten, or say anything that may be considered hate speech to someone without consequences. One example of hate speech can be seen in a video of Milo Yiannopoulous at UW Milwaukee. In this video, he verbally attacked and degraded a transgender student. They still were spoken with no point other than to make fun of a subject and way of life that Yiannopoulous did not agree with. Another example of hate speech and fighting words is threats. As stated by Ben Shapiro, some people “greeted the birth of [his] second child by calling for [him, his] wife, and two children to be thrown into a gas chamber”. There was no purpose to this statement other than to express a disagreement with his religion. Under the First Amendment, hate speech is not something you can say without consequences. Speech Codes cannot be used to prevent speakers with controversial opinions from speaking. They cannot prevent people from peacefully disagreeing and debating about topics. However, speech codes can apply consequences if that speech becomes hateful or slanderous since that speech would no longer be protected under the First Amendment.
Some Speech Codes are also attempting to limit the student’s right to peacefully protest a speaker. The First Amendment specifically says “Congress shall make no law… abridging the freedom of speech, or the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble”. To restrict the right to peacefully assemble is a direct violation of the First Amendment. Yet, as seen on the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education website, also known as FIRE, some college campuses are restricting the student’s rights to peacefully assemble and protest on the grounds that they are disrupting the speaker’s right to freedom of speech. Furthermore, the Wisconsin Campus Free Speech Act states that “protests and demonstrations that interfere with the expressive rights of others are subject to sanction”. There must be a line drawn as to what qualifies as disruptive and interfering demonstrations. The line is whether or not there is any form of violence or hate speech. If a protester simply said the speaker was wrong, held signs, and argued about right versus wrong, nothing can be done about it because they are protesting peacefully, as the First Amendment says they can. However, if a protestor started doing damage or cursing out the speaker, then they would have to face consequences. Recently at UC Berkeley, protesters became very violent at a speech by Yiannopoulous and had to be escorted off the premises. UC Berkeley encompasses what a protest that is not protected by the First Amendment is, and what Speech Codes can restrict.
In the end, Speech codes can be useful to make speeches more peaceful and clearly define punishments for breaking that peace, however, they must still subject to the First Amendment.