TS Sarah LeRoy who wishes to know whether she has a good claim against the Syracuse School District for suspending her from high school for ostensibly exercising her First Amendment rights over wearing a controversial t-shirt and smearing artificial blood on another shirt during a school-sponsored event on current events during spring, 2017. Sarah’s anti-war t-shirt and statements in the school assembly may be sanctionable as a disruptive speech, even if may be considered as a pure, political speech.
In order to help her understand whether or not she has a reasonable ground against Syracuse School District for suspending her from high school, it is important to consider a number of decided cases that have similarities to the issues she is facing Perry-Hazan, 2015).
Public High School students do not shed their First Amendment rights at the schoolhouse gate. Tinker, 393 U.S. at 506. In fact, the Supreme Court held in Tinker that public high schools have the right to regulate school speech where there is a reasonable forecast of substantial disruption of the school’s educational purpose or mission. Id. at 513.
Public schools may sanction the activities of the students if they are unreasonably offensive.
Political speech is entitled to great protection. And symbolic political speech, which is non-verbal speech, is “akin” to pure political speech and entitled to comprehensive First Amendment protections. Id. at 504. Undifferentiated fear of disruption is insufficient to warrant squelching free speech in public high schools and does not merit suspension. Id. at 508.
However, this will depend on whether or not the sanctions are reasonable. However, it is imperative to appreciate the fact that courts gave students reasonable protections to freely express themselves especially for political speech provided they do not disrupt the education mission of the schools. See Thinker, 393 U.S. at 513. Elsewhere, public schools may sanction the actions of the students. However, the school authority must have reasonable evidence to prove that the actions are not related to the purposes of education. See Guiles ex rel. Lucas v. Marineau, 349 F. Supp. 2d 871 (D. Vt. 2004).
Sarah LeRoy has reasonable claims against her school for suspending her because she wore a controversial T-shirt and smeared artificial blood on another shirt during school-sponsored events. This is because from the decision of the previous case held that wearing a black armband in protest against the government was quiet and passive and did not disrupt anybody and neither did it infringe on the rights of others. Similarly, by wearing a controversial T-shirt and smearing artificial blood on the other, Sarah LeRoy did not infringe on the rights of others and neither did she disrupt the school activities since her actions were within the confines of the first amendment with regard to the protection of free speech. See Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District, 393 U.S. 503 (1969). It is evident that the First Amendment to the Federal Constitution asserts that the United States Congress shall not pass any law that prohibits the exercise of freedom of speech, of the press or the right to peacefully assemble and petition the government to address their grievances. The first amendment establishes six important rights to the Americans citizens (Perry-Hazan, 2015). These include the right to free exercise of religion, the right to be free from interference from the government with respect to religion, the freedom of speech, freedom of assembly and the right to petition the government to address people’s grievances.
Furthermore, smearing blood on a shirt and wearing another that is perceived controversial does not amount to materially disruptive speech. However, one court upheld the sanctions against the students using inappropriate speech. See Pyle v. South Hadley Sch. Comm., 861 F. Supp. 157 (D.Mass.1994). This court reasoned that it was appropriate to sanction the student so as to preserve a stable learning environment while at the same time considering the student’s protection as provided by the First Amendment.
By smearing artificial blood on the T-shirt, Sarah’s actions may not be sanctionable as offensive because smearing artificial blood does not constitute an offensive act. By wearing a controversial T-shirt and smearing artificial blood on the other, Sarah LeRoy did not infringe on the rights of others and neither did she disrupt the school activities since her actions were within the confines of the first amendment with regard to the protection of free speech. Furthermore, smearing blood on a shirt and wearing another that is perceived controversial does not amount to materially disruptive speech. See Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District, 393 U.S. 503 (1969).
On the basis of Morse v. Frederick, 551 U.S. 393 (2007), it can be concluded that Sarah LeRoy has reasonable grounds against the school for suspending her because previously the court had ruled that banners do not express positive sentiments with regard to the promotion of illegality in the school and neither are they inconsistent with the provision of the First Amendment (Perry-Hazan, 2015). Therefore in this regard, the school ought to appreciate the fact that it is not entitled to qualified immunity because Sarah LeRoy’s right to wear the controversial T-shirt is clearly established under the first amendment and therefore the school ought to have understood that its actions were unconstitutional. By quoting Guiles ex rel. Lucas v. Martineau, 349 F. Supp. 2d 871 (D. Vt. 2004) case, Sarah LeRoy has reasonable grounds in the sense that the First Amendment protects the freedom of speech and expression. In Guiles’ case, the Court of Appeal held that in as much as the T-shirt depicted drugs and alcohol, it was still a protected speech on the basis of the first amendment of the federal constitution (Perry-Hazan, 2015). Similarly, Sarah LeRoy has reasonable grounds because wearing a controversial T-shirt and smearing artificial blood to the other is protected speech and therefore the school’s action to suspend her is unconstitutional and violates the provisions of the first amendment. Furthermore, her actions do not amount to possible materially disruptive speech since it is unclear whether or not the public was disrupted by her actions.
It is evident that Sarah LeRoy has reasonable claims against the school’s action to suspend her because doing so violates the provisions of the first amendment which guarantees the freedom of speech. Furthermore, the school’s actions are unconstitutional because they work against the provisions of the constitution.