Oliver Burkeman in New York
Friday September 1, 2006
Zachary Guiles knew he was being provocative when he showed up for school two years ago in a T-shirt that accused George Bush of being a war-mongering draft-dodger, a drunkard and a drug addict. What the 13-year-old may not have realised was that he would provoke a major free-speech battle that culminated this week in a court victory.
An appeals court in New York found that Zachary's constitutional rights were violated when officials at his Vermont school made him stick duct tape over parts of the T-shirt. The shirt also said the president was undertaking a "world domination tour" and showed a picture of his head superimposed on a chicken's body, along with cocaine, a razor blade and a martini glass. Zachary was suspended for a day, but continued to wear the T-shirt to school, complete with duct tape.Lawyers for Williamstown middle high school argued the images contravened the school's ban on clothes promoting drink and drugs, but the court rejected the idea on the grounds that the T-shirt expressed "an anti-drug view". Mr Bush has spoken of his battles with alcohol earlier in his life.
The T-shirt "uses harsh rhetoric and imagery to express disagreement with the president's policies and to impugn his character", the court ruled, but the images "are not plainly offensive as a matter of law".
"The standard that the court set was that a kid has free-speech rights as long as the expression of those rights doesn't upset the normal workings of a school," said Allen Gilbert, of the American Civil Liberties Union, which brought the case.
Zachary said: "I think this is a very good sign that even with the current administration ... there can still be a justice that allows free speech."
Friday, September 01, 2006
Students Still Have Constitutional Rights
From The Guardian: