Let me be clear: Bob Barr and Scott Henry were correct in their characterization of the teacher and administrators involved in this incident as stupid. They also maligned her, invaded her privacy and, in all probability, subjected the school district to potential civil damages for a form of false arrest.
But none of the above is nearly as important as the school district's UNCONSTITUTIONAL effort to suppress free, private expression (aka thought). The Constitution does not give Rachel Boim the "right to free speech." She has that right because it forbids all legislatures (through the "due process" clause of the 14th Amendment) to pass any law ("no law") that would empower the agents of the state to abridge her speech or her writing.
This does not give her the right to speak anywhere she wants, or to demand that her work be published wherever she chooses. But it does give her the unfettered right to be free from any "state" interference as to what she writes in a medium that she owns and controls (her journal). She was expelled because of what her teacher read in her journal (the content). Not time. Not place. Not manner. CONTENT!
Permit me to quote Justice Fortas from Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District (1969), the controlling decision on issues concerning the content of student expression: "First Amendment rights, applied in light of the special characteristics of the school environment, are available to teachers and students ... [In] our system, undifferentiated fear or apprehension of disturbance is not enough to overcome the right to freedom of expression."
It is unfortunate that neither a former federal prosecutor nor any representatives of the press -- including the AJC -- has thought to raise Tinker in this context. May I suggest that the correct response to any government's efforts to suppress thought should be zero tolerance.
Oh, by the way, perhaps Barr should raise the issue of armed "resource officers" at the next meeting of the NRA. He might remind the Georgia Legislature that the Second Amendment has never been incorporated into the 14th. Oh, silly me.
-- Stan Risdon, Atlanta
Not reaction, but inaction
The single biggest fraud perpetrated on the public in regard to the Roswell High student who was expelled over her diary, is that there is a "zero tolerance" policy. Think about it. If there really were a "zero tolerance" policy, would each of the major metro school systems have literally tens of thousands of discipline referrals each year? Of course not. Georgia's students may be dead last in SAT scores, but they've obviously mastered the physics of discipline policies in the public schools: For every disruptive "action," there is an equal and spineless "inaction" when it comes to consequences.
Thus, we get treated to periodic spectacles (Remember the Tweety Bird chain?) from feeble-minded educrats desperate to create the facade of "everything's under control." If Gov. Perdue really wants to restore "hope" to Georgia's schools, he needs to make support for discipline his No. 1 priority. I hate to put it all on him, but obviously, too many Georgia school officials are taking advantage of the "free lobotomy with purchase of lottery ticket" promotion.
-- Andrew Manning, Decatur
Into the light
I just read "The boys from Kennebunkport" (Fishwrapper, Oct. 30) and "The Nazis in Dubya's closet" (Fishwrapper, Oct. 2). I have to say it explains a lot. Throughout 9-11 and the war, I've wondered why our beloved president has turned this country into a police state. Now I know. I don't voice my opinion on the war because everyone around me doesn't see what I do in regard to this war being about money and oil. It has nothing to do with weapons; it's all about control.
I just want to say thank you for shining the light on something so important to our country.
-- Chaka Leavell, Riverdale
Fight the fight
John Sugg: I am amazed every time I read one of your editorials to see that you are one of the few people out there telling us the truth about what's happening to the rights of citizens in this country -- and still, nobody listens to you (News & Views, Fishwrapper). How can Americans be so naive or so blind as to not see what the Bush regime is trying to do to this country? We've weathered Nixon, Reagan, Bush the First, and now this one. How much more can we stand before we do something about it?
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