The unbelievable "BONG HITS 4 JESUS" case began on January 24, 2002 when Juneau, Alaska high school student Joseph Frederick unfurled a banner with those words across the street from the school doing the Olympic Torch Relay.
Here are the bare bones facts in the case:
1. Student was on his own time;
2. Student was across the street from the school and not on school property;
3. School board contends he was 'displaying a banner expressing positive sentiments about illegal drug use at a school-sponsored and faculty-supervised event taking place on and adjacent to school grounds during school hours."
4. Banner displayed reads "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" - which may be construed many ways, including with a stretch perhaps 'positive sentiments' about drug use. (It's all in the interpretation and the eye of the beholder after all, isn't it?)
5. All students were let out of school for the event;
6. Event (Olympic Torch Run) was taking place on a public street running by the school, and not on school grounds;
7. Some students were on school grounds to witness the event, some were across the street, and many left school and did not even attend the event;
8. School principal has admitted she was aware of prior legal decisions concerning students' free speech rights;
9. Principle nonetheless took it upon herself to act contrary to legal precedent in this case and 'ripped' the banner down;
10. Principal subsequently suspended student for violation of school policy for 'promoting a drug message';
11. Although there was zero evidence of drug use, student was 'referred' to drug interdiction program;
12. Student was arrested for 'trespass' while off school property, then harassed by police, car towed, searched, student had to walk 3 miles home in 10 degree weather wearing only a T-shirt, etc., etc.;
(And, here you can find an accounting of the event from the student's viewpoint:
13. Student sued the school board and the principal with help of ACLU and lost in lower court;
14. Student appealed the case to 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals where he prevailed on appeal;
15. The juneau district school board, dominated by religious conservatives, appealed the Ninth US Circuit ruling to supreme court of the US;
16. Suit was joined by at least two education associations as 'interested parties' - whose admitted interest is solely in protecting the personal liability of educators in enforcing 'school policies'. (The student's suit also named the principal involved.)
17. Kenneth Starr (Yes, THAT Kenneth Starr) volunteered to take the school's side on a pro bono basis;
18. The US Supreme court has now agreed to hear the case. The case is Morse and the Juneau School Board et al. v. Frederick (06-278).
19. Case scheduled to be heard in late February, 2007.
20. Most Juneau, Alaska high school students are now laughing their butts off at the silliness of their school board.
Such is the danger of someone in a position of 'authority' (the principal and the school board dominated by religious conservatives) allowing their common sense to be overwhelmed by their dogma to the point where they override the most basic of an individual's constitutionally guaranteed civil rights.
But, perhaps the most absurd aspect of this story besides all the money spent, effort wasted and purported desire to 'prevent the promotion of drug use', is this story has had exactly the opposite effect, and in a huge way. Several 'cannabis use' supporters have already picked up on the story. And, of course the notoriety of having this go all the way to the Supreme Court will shine a great big, fresh spotlight on this sorry spectacle.
Juneau's school district enjoyed a dismal graduation rate of 65.8% for 2006, and rates for native American students were even lower at 48.4%. Perhaps a question that well should be raised is, 'Which things may be more important than some ridiculous school boy banner prank which winds up as a US Supreme Court."
That dogmatic perversion often overrules everything else is well proven in this case.