31 August 2006

Free speech win for students

The Second Circuit ruled in Guiles v. Marineau yesterday, establishing that this shirt is protected speech, not obscene. Using the classic doubleplay combo of Tinkers-Fraser-Hazelwood, the court finds that the images of cocaine and alchohol here are not offensive, but indeed political speech.

While the exact contours of what is plainly offensive are not so clear to us as the star Arcturus is on a cloudless night, they are evident enough for us to hold that the images of drugs and alcohol on Guiles's T-shirt are not offensive, let alone plainly so, under Fraser. We believe this is especially so given that these images are presented as part of an anti-drug T-shirt, and, moreover, a T-shirt with a political message. Indeed the Fraser court distinguished its holding from Tinker in part on the absence of any political message in Fraser's speech.
Having determined that neither Hazelwood nor Fraser apply, we turn to Tinker. Applying Tinker to the facts of this case, we conclude that defendants' censorship of the images on Guiles's T-shirt violated his free speech rights. The parties agree that Guiles's T-shirt did not cause any disruption or confrontation in the school. Nor do defendants contend they had a reasonable belief that it would. Guiles wore the T-shirt on average once a week for two months without any untoward incidents occurring. Only when a fellow student's mother -- who had different political views from plaintiff -- protested did defendants direct Guiles to cover the drug and alcohol illustrations. Because Guiles's T-shirt did not cause any disruption, defendants' censorship was unwarranted.
Now, if only the court could do something to make the shirt less damn ugly. I mean, who did more blow: Shrub or the graphic designer?


Angela said...

That is one fugly t-shirt!!!