An article from World Net Daily is reporting that, "A hearing is scheduled Monday before the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans that could determine if students in elementary schools have the protections of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
The case arose in the Plano Independent School District in Texas where Thomas Elementary School Principal Lynn Swanson and Rasor Elementary School Principal Jackie Bomchill were sued for restricting student speech when it referenced 'God' or 'Jesus.'
According to the Liberty Institute, in the first incident, officials banned 8-year-old Jonathan Morgan from handing out candy canes with Jesus' name on them to classmates at a school party.
'Then they confiscated a little girl's pencils after school because they mentioned 'God,'' the Institute reported.
But that's not all, the group said.
'They even banned an entire classroom from writing 'Merry Christmas' on cards to our troops serving in Iraq.'
The dispute went to district court then to a three-judge panel of the 5th Circuit where school officials' efforts to have the complaint rejected because of their 'immunity' failed.
Now the appeals court has agreed to an en banc hearing in which 17 judges will listen to arguments and decide the dispute.
The school officials are arguing 'that the First Amendment does not apply to elementary school students,' explains the appeal brief submitted by Liberty Institute."
Well then, Plano Independent School District officials are wrong. The U.S. Supreme Court has already ruled, in Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District, that, "Under our Constitution, free speech is not a right that is given only to be so circumscribed that it exists in principle but not in fact...The Constitution says that Congress (and the States) may not abridge the right to free speech. This provision means what it says. We properly read it to permit reasonable regulation of speech-connected activities in carefully restricted circumstances. But we do not confine the permissible exercise of First Amendment rights to a telephone booth or the four corners of a pamphlet, or to supervised and ordained discussion in a school classroom."
What the Supreme Court said in Tinker is that free speech rights of students can only be "carefully restricted" or "reasonably regulated" by school administrators. And only if these school administrators can show that such free speech rights would cause a substantial disruption of the school's educational mission. Is there anyone out there - who is sane - who can argue that a pencil which mentions God or a candy cane with Jesus' name on it constitutes a substantial disruption of a school's educational mission?
It is my firm belief that the Plano Independent School District officials in question could benefit greatly from a mental-health checkup. Not to mention a brief primer in constitutional law.