Letter to the Editor

Dear Editor:

The recent, tragic shootings at Parkland, Fla. will, no doubt, pit protesting public school students against their respective school systems and boards, if their plans are successful in pulling students out of classrooms to march in public demonstrations, and by wearing any anti-gun protest armbands, tee shirts, or other political clothing in the classroom.

For guidance on this matter regarding the student’s free speech rights, one can turn to the 1969 U.S. Supreme Court decision, when students wore anti-Vietnam War armbands in school. The high court ruled that these students did have a right of free speech to wear the armbands. Public school attorneys and school boards in Michigan would be wise to develop anticipatory policies regarding this matter in advance of next month’s planned Washington, D.C. march and similar protests in the classroom.

In a related free speech case, the right to wear political campaign hats, T-shirts and politically oriented clothing at voter polling precincts will be tested on February 28, 2018, when the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments against a Minnesota law that bans such political materials on the person who shows up at the polls to vote. Minnesota voter Andy Cilek is challenging this law. The Supreme Court’s ultimate decision could impact Michigan’s similar law. These cases point out the continuing debates over free speech and the U.S. Constitution.

Joe Neussendorfer
Associate Member
American Bar Association