The whole point of free speech is not to make ideas exempt from criticism but to expose them to it.

Monday, September 14, 2009

The First Amendment and your kids' clothes

Comes now from the AP a story out of Eagle Butte where the school board there is sending kids home from school for not complying with the school's dress code. Read it here.

Some parents are suing the school board saying children in the district cannot afford to comply with a dress code that requires students to dress in black, white or tan shirts, pants, skirts or shorts. The school board says they are trying to reduce gang violence in the school. Is there a lot of gang-related violence in Eagle Butte?

It appears to me from Chet Brokaw's story that a student in a pair of blue Wranglers and a red striped shirt would be told to go home. The official "uniform dress code" is here.

This is a ridiculous and unnecessary hardship and a classic example of a school board not considering the consequences of their actions.

Questions for Forumpians:

1. Does a local board have the right to tell you how to clothe your children, and if so to what degree? Why? Why not?

2. Do grade-school and middle school students enjoy the same rights of free speech adults have? Why? Why not?

3. If they can regulate what you wear at school, can they regulate what you read while having lunch or during study hall? Why? Why not?

4. Can they regulate the bumper stickers on the bicycles kids ride to school?

Where does their regulatory power begin and end?

This reminds me of a couple of things:

Years ago a student entered Stevens High School with a shotgun hidden under a long coat and held a class hostage for the better part of an afternoon. The response of Stevens officials was not to outlaw shotguns in the building, it was to outlaw coats. Students were told to leave their coats in their cars, because coats were not allowed in lockers (where they might be stolen) either. Stupid.

Even more years ago, I attended Salina High School South in Salina, Kansas. I wanted to try out for the football team. I was told I could do that just as soon as I got a short haircut and had proof that I had paid my dues to join the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. When I informed the coach Carlson that I was not inclined to join that organization, he ruffled my curly hair and said: "Jews can't play football anyway." Jews (who refused to join FCA) couldn't (weren't allowed) play basketball either; or golf; or swim; or do gymnastics; or run track or cross country; or participate in debate. (Yes, one could letter in debate.) My father (who wasn't Jewish) told me that under the circumstances, I'd never make the team no matter how good I was.

I suspect no such requirement exists today at Salina High School South. So I packed my shotgun and fishing gear in the backseat of my car and went fishing or dove, quail and pheasant hunting every day after school with my friends or my dad.

Now here's one...when there became a concern that students' shotguns could be stolen from their cars, they were urged to case them and put them in their lockers!


Steve Sibson said...

This boils down to the hazards of deminishing America's moral foundation. Chaos is the result, which forces the government to bring order by taking away freedoms. We cannot be self-governed, if we don't have self-control. That is why the Bible is so important and should not be excluded in a system of "true education".

Bill Fleming said...

Sibby? A dress code from the Bible? Are you kidding me? Get a shave and a haircut, hippy. (wink)

Michael Sanborn said...

So you're saying the local board can determine what your children wear? What if they decide that students are not allowed to wear their confirmation crosses?

Steve Sibson said...


They already do ban religious symbols. I do agree that this is an attack on freedoms. My point is that when society gets out of control, the government steps in (sometimes with violence) to bring order. Protecting society's moral foundation is the only way to preseve liberty.

Michael Sanborn said...

So what happens when government gets "out of control?"

Steve Sibson said...

"So what happens when government gets 'out of control?'"

We have tyranny.

Bob Newland said...

I agree with the school board. If the Nazis had been banned from wearing those snappy uniforms, people would have laughed at them, and they wouldn't have been able to kill as many Jews, Gypsies and queers.

Bill Fleming said...

I had to wear a uniform when I was in Catholic grade school in New Mexico. The reasoning supposedly was so that we couldn't tell the poor kids from the rich kids that way. Right. Whatever.

There was also a pretty strictly enforced dress code in Custer High School when I was there.

Later, I heard students sued school boards successfully for constitutional rights violations.

Our class was to dumb to think of that, I guess.

We just lipped off and got sent home and stuff.

Les said...

Not sure I ever liked the dress code that we had, slacks (boys) and dresses (girls). A percentage of the kids in the EB system need to be in the system that requires dress code, boot camp or otherwise. Remember, EB is the rez, our constitution does not apply there. That is Sen Maher's district, it touches three states and encompasses two foreign nations. BTW, I disagree that we are born with all these inalienable rights, we earn some of them.