The Supreme Court recently ruled that high-school students’ free speech rights do not extend to allowing them to post drug-related banners. I’m all for free speech, but I guess I don’t have too much of an issue with this decision, because you have to give school administrators some power to control the classroom learning environment. But what’s fascinating is the opinion written by Justice Clarence Thomas, analyzed by folks at the Berkman Center:
In the most curious opinion of the day, Justice Thomas, who also signed on to the majority opinion, argued in a concurrence that “the better approach” to resolving the scope of student speech rights is to reverse the Court’s precedent and hold that students have no free speech rights at all. In his concurrence, he relied almost exclusively on cases from the nineteenth century — long before the First Amendment was held applicable to the States — and waxed sentimental about the good old days when “teachers managed classrooms with an iron hand.” Justice Thomas argued that because student speech rights were not recognized when the Fourteenth Amendment was ratified, they should not be recognized now. (In a footnote, Thomas suggested that college students also should have no First Amendment rights because historically the university was structured on strict hierarchical authority.)
Yes, that’s right. College students, who can be drafted, can vote, are tried as adults, and are basically full-fledged citizens (except for that pesky drinking age thing), should not have any right to free speech on campus. There’s a Supreme Court opinion that would make the Iranian Mullahs and the Chinese government proud!