Remember the entry I did earlier this month on the students in Boston facing suspension for religious candy canes? Well it turns out they were suspended and now they’ve filed a federal lawsuit over the whole mess.
The students, members of the school’s Bible Club, are asking the US District Court in Springfield to throw out their suspensions, allow them to distribute religious materials at school while the lawsuit is pending, and declare the school’s actions unconstitutional.
The case, which has drawn considerable attention, is poised to pit arguments of freedom of speech against those of separation of church and state. ‘‘We really don’t want to come across as sue-happy Christians,’’ said Stephen Grabowski, 16, one of the leaders of the group. ‘‘This is nothing against the school, but the policy needs to be changed.’‘
You’ll probably be surprised to hear this coming from me, but the students do have a good point. Their rights to free speech are being infringed by the school and the courts have decided in the past that such infringement should only happen when the speech in question might disrupt school activities. The kids do have the right to hand out their candy canes with the urban myth about how they represent Jesus if they so choose to do so as long as they’re not disrupting classes or causing problems in the process and as long as it’s clear that the school itself isn’t sponsoring or promoting the student’s actions.
Part of the problem with these sorts of issues is the fact that so few people involved in them understand what is and isn’t allowed. A lot of schools have done what this school did, which was to put into place a policy that dictates students aren’t allowed to hand out anything that isn’t directly related to the school or it’s activities. In essence squelching all free speech rights out of fear of getting into a mess over a specific type of free speech. Rather than educating themselves on what they can and can’t allow, the school tried to take the easy way out and are headed to court over it.