Question: the annual smallville fair is the community event of the...
The annual Smallville Fair is the community event of the year. Attendance is always high, with community members going to enjoy the thrill rides, the exhibits, and the food, as well as to “see and be seen.” Principal Cuthbert of Smallville High School is there, and as he turns the corner (around the “Guess Your Age or Weight” exhibit,) he is shocked by what he sees. In front of the “Bearded Lady” exhibit is the star Smallville High School quarterback, senior Coy Gunner. Gunner is wearing a green “tee-shirt” depicting a Christ-like figure smoking a marijuana cigarette; in large yellow letters on the front of the shirt are the words “Joints For Jesus.” On the back of the shirt (again, in large yellow letters) is the following: “WWJS: What Would Jesus Smoke?!”
Principal Cuthbert immediately confronts Gunner, exclaiming “Coy Gunner, I cannot believe you would wear such a disgusting shirt. You have offended my Christian principles and beliefs, as well as the religious beliefs of countless numbers of Smallville citizens attending this fair. Further, you have disgraced Smallville High School. As the star quarterback of our football team, you of all people should know that you are a role model for your fellow students, as well as younger kids in the community. I will see you in my office Monday morning at 7:30 a.m..”
Gunner arrives at Principal Cuthbert’s office on Monday morning to discover that Principal Cuthbert has decided to suspend him for ten school days. Gunner objects, saying “I remember in civics class that Mr. Campbell told us we have the right to free speech. I object to the suspension, and if you don’t change your mind, Principal Cuthbert, my dad knows a good attorney who might want to speak with you.”
Is the message on Gunner’s shirt constitutionally-protected free speech? Would rational limitations on free speech justify Principal Cuthbert’s decision to suspend Gunner? Does it matter whether the incident occurred on or off school property?
The United States Supreme Court decided a similar, but certainly not identical, case in 2007. I encourage you to find and read the case. Your analysis should look to the similarities and differences between the hypothetical case and the case decided by the Supreme Court