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Saturday, December 27, 2014
Gutless educational administrators, Part 6,577 (Updated

This is pathetic and really depressing. (Note the title has been changed to indicate that the face of this decision is not the school's AD, but its principal).

First, we bemoan about how uninvolved and politically disinterested "kids today" are, then we systematically shut down their efforts to be involved or to take a stand.

Second, note the administration's move here--"we are too small to keep the peace 'should someone get upset and choose to act out,' so we are just going to stop people from speaking." This is a preemptive heckler's veto--In the ordinary heckler's veto, government stops the speaker when the crowd gets unruly and actually threatens violence; here, the government is stopping the speaker with no basis to know or reason to believe that anyone will get unruly, essentially by pleading poverty. Of course, government never has enough resources to protect everyone should someone decide to act out (someone will get hurt before police/security can respond). So, taken to its extreme, no one should be able to say anything that (government finds) controversial or objectionable, because government never can guarantee complete safety.

Third, while high schools are different and administrators have much greater control over expression on school grounds, this seems a step too far, particularly as to fans in the stands. Is an "I Can't Breathe" shirt really more likely to cause a disruption than an armband in the middle of Vietnam?

Fourth, given the insistence that "all political statements" be kept away from the tournament, should we assume that the national anthem will not be sung?

The tourney begins Monday. No indication that the players or potential shirt-wearing fans are running to court to even try to get an injunction.

Update: Some more details in this story. Before explaining the preemptive heckler's veto, the principal of the host school--a professional educator--indicated that she "respected the Mendocino teams 'for paying attention to what is going on in the world around them.'" Apparently, however, this professional educator does not respect them enough to not punish them for paying attention to what is going on in the world around them. Irony really is dead.

The Huff Post story also indicates that the father has been in touch with the ACLU and is hoping to hear back after the holiday. Someone in the N.D. Cal. is going to be handling an emergency TRO Monday morning.

Further Update: The school district relented following negotiations with an attorney for one of the players--players and spectators will be permitted to wear the t-shirts, so long as they "do not cause any serious problems at the tournament." Of course, framing it that way walks us right back to the heckler's veto--if I object to the shirts, my motivation is to cause a disruption, which would then prompt the school district to do what I want and stop people from wearing them.


"[T]he government is stopping the speaker with no basis to know or reason to believe that anyone will get unruly."

This is simply a conclusory statement; this is by far the most racially charged issue(s) of the last decade, and has engendered unnecessary violence from protesters on both sides. Thus, at very least, this merits discussion as to whether or not, on balance, one's right to wear a t-shirt outweighs a possible material and substantial disruption to the operation of a school-sponsored event.

Anonymous Anonymous -- 12/29/2014 11:01 AM  

1) I wasn't there, but I cannot believe this is less charged than Vietnam. And the Court held the black armbands could not be prohibited even in the face of actual disruption and conflict over the war within the actual school.

2) The disruption standard is not supposed to be a heckler's veto, which is how the school was treating it.

Blogger Howard Wasserman -- 12/31/2014 6:55 PM  

1) I think you're misinterpreting Tinker here.

2) It absolutely can--and should--be a heckler's veto if we're at a school-sponsored event, given of course that the material/substantial disruption can be reasonably forecasted. A few protests on this issue have turned violent across the nation, including at least a couple within California, the state in which this tournament is being held (Oakland and Berkeley). So, who knows, you might be right on this (the school did relent, after all), but I can assure you we're miles away from "gutless," "pathetic," and "really depressing."

Anonymous Anonymous -- 1/02/2015 5:32 PM  

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