Saturday, August 08, 2009

School Days

So we got a letter in the mail from the Boy's intermediate school (5th and 6th Grade). Essentially, it's a welcome letter explaining what the school is like and a few tips and whatnot.

On the back page is listed a dress code. Two things struck me: 1. no "satanic" shirts and 2: No shirts with obscenities on it .

These two issues are a little problematic because as I understand it, it makes the school dress code Unconstitutional. Let me explain: first, the district is banning "satanic" shirts, however, no mention is made of a restriction of "Christian," "Muslim," "Jewish," "Hindu," or shirts of any other religion (satanism is a religion). In other words, the state (via the public school district) is adopting a policy that disfavors one religion over all others. This is a clear violation of the Lemon Test, the three prongs of which are: 1. a legitimate secular purpose (I'm not certain what the secular purpose of this might be), 2. a pimary effect that neither advances nor inhibits religion (this CLEARLY inhibits religion as it's an outright ban on one religion), and 3. te statute must not foster an excessive government entanglement with religion (which it probably doesn't). In order to be a legitimate code, the rule must pass muster on all three prongs of the test. Just by plain reading of the code, and then of Lemon, it is painfull obvious that this rule is violative of the 1st Amendment.

The second issue is a little less of an issue, and may very well be just fine. We know that a student's Constitutional rights do not end when they enter a schoolhouse, but we also know that a student's Constitutional rights are not as encompassing as a public citizen's outside of school. That said, it's been ruled in Des Moines that a student may wear an armband in protest, and we know that Bong Hits for Jesus resulted in a suspension upheld by the Supreme Court with Chief Justice Roberts writing the opinion (surprise - he supported the State!). It's possible that this is entirely kosher, but it's likewise possible that my child can wear a shirt with political speech that might be protected.

Of course, neither I nor any of my family to my knowledge is a practicing satanist, and I doubt that anyone in my family is going to wear a shirt that says "Fuck the End of Days war in Iraq entered into by President GW Bush" to school, but that's not the point, really. The point is that these rights need to be protected for those who DO want to do so, or who DO believe the way they do.

Anyway, what do y'all think? Particularly with regard to the second point, which is much fuzzier in my mind as to its Constitutionality...

1 comment:

Gramma said...

Are you going to be the unpopular parent who calls this to public attention? BTW, I googled "Church of Satan" and got several hits.