Tom Angell at (202) 293-4414 or Tony Newman at (646) 335-5384
WASHINGTON, DC — Dozens of high school students with signs and banners will hold a free speech rally outside the Supreme Court on Monday as justices hear oral arguments in Morse v. Frederick. If the government has its way, the ruling in the case could allow school administrators to punish students just for questioning the effectiveness of the D.A.R.E. program, the humiliation of school drug testing policies, or the invasiveness of random locker searches.
The case focuses on Joseph Frederick, who was suspended in 2002 from a high school in Alaska after holding up a “Bong Hits 4 Jesus” banner during a school trip to see the Olympic torch parade pass by.
This Monday’s rally, organized by Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP) and the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA), will feature two students who had political campaign t-shirts advocating medical marijuana confiscated by school officials, as well as students prevented from starting an SSDP chapter at their public high school because their principal didn’t agree with the group’s anti-drug war message. The students will display a large “Free Speech 4 Students” banner on the steps of the Court.
WHO: Student activists, free speech advocates, drug policy reform advocates
WHAT: Rally supporting students’ 1st Amendment right to criticize ineffective drug policies
WHEN: Monday, March 19, 2007 @ 11:00 AM (immediately following end of oral arguments)
WHERE: U.S. Supreme Court steps; E Capitol St. NE and 1st St. NE; Washington, DC 20001
“This case focuses on one student’s absurd banner, but if the Court accepts the school’s argument, free speech will be silenced in classrooms across the country,” said Kris Krane, executive director of SSDP, which filed an amicus brief in the case. “The War on Drugs impacts young people every day. Students must retain their First Amendment right to debate drug policies that directly affect them.”
“There is a rich tradition in our country of students actively and eloquently participating in timely debates affecting local and national policies — from the Vietnam War to the Drug War, and animal rights to civil rights. Given their distinct perspectives, students should be heard, and they should hear one another. We silence them at our peril,” said Daniel Abrahamson, DPA’s director of legal affairs.
Frederick sued his principal and school after receiving a 10-day suspension. Losing in federal district court, he won appeal to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. Ken Starr is arguing the case for the school.
* Links to the organizations’ amicus briefs can be found online at www.ssdp.org/freespeech/ and www.drugpolicy.org/news/freespeech.cfm *