Judge tells ‘spoiled kids’ to respect administrators

“Spoiled and coddled” students with “excessive self-esteem” should “learn to roll with the punches” when faced with offensive political or religious messages, said Judge Richard A. Posner of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit, in Chicago in a recent speech, reports Ed Week‘s School Law Blog. Courts should defer more to school administrators’ judgment, Posner told the national conference of the Education Law Association.

Some school litigation is caused by “hypersensitive” students with “aggressive” parents, the judge said.

“It seems to me you have to take a certain amount of buffeting to live in society,” said Posner, who recounted that in the early 1960s he took the bar exam in a room at Fordham University, a Roman Catholic institution in New York City, where he was greeted by a large crucifix.It was a “sad-looking Jesus Christ,” said Posner, a graduate of Harvard Law School. “What do you expect? It’s a crucifixion. He’s looking down on us balefully. I’m not religious. Some people would be offended: ‘This is a secular activity, what are they doing confronting us with this?’ I think people should roll with those particular punches.”

However, Posner ruled against school administrators who banned high school students from wearing  T-shirts that said “Be Happy, Not Gay.”

“First of all, these are high school seniors,” Posner said in his speech last week. “Since they have to form political opinions, they ought to be exposed to diversity of thought. … I think it is problematic for schools to try to suppress criticism of homosexuality.”

Also, school administrators’ arguments that the “Be Happy” shirts were a form of bullying were not backed by any hard evidence, the judge said.

On the flip side, the judge ruled against a group of gifted 8th graders at a Chicago magnet school who wanted to wear T-shirts calling their classmates “tards,” short for “retards.”

In his speech, Posner called for “a high standard for (free-speech) suits by schoolchildren against schools.”



About Joanne


  1. Mavor Wilbert says:

    I was hoping you might draw some conclusions from this.

  2. Homosexuality is not a political issue and hence criticizing it is not a political statement or opinion. I’d consider a comparable shirt to be, ‘Be White, Not Black”

    If the shirt was to opine on gay marriage, which is currently a political issue, that would be a different question, though the tenor of the message would be important – is it pro ‘traditional marriage’ or anti-gay?

  3. Michael E. Lopez says:

    As much as I hate to admit it, there’s something to the left’s constant canard that “everything is political.” That’s at least true when you have an extremely powerful, intrusive state, and it’s probably true even in our fairly mild bureaucratic leviathan here in the U.S.

    Gay marriage is obviously political, because that’s a current, ongoing legal debate.

    But just a few years ago, there were laws that outlawed homosexual behavior. Was that not political? Of course it was.

    Now, you can say that those LAWS are political, but that generalized endorsement of homosexuality (or condemnation) isn’t, but we’re starting to split hairs now.

    What if I propose a law exiling all self-proclaimed homosexuals to the Aleutian islands? Forced relocation to protect the social morality, we could call it, and we can justify it under the commerce clause. In response, people start wearing T-shirts that say, “GAY IS GOOD!” They attempt to spread a message that homosexuality is something positive, or at least harmless.

    Are these messages now “not political” just because they deal with generalized approval or condemnation? Of course not.

    Speech about social and moral issues is political speech precisely because we can organize our laws and our politics and our public institutions to reflect our opinions on these matters.

  4. Anything we can do that gets teachers and students back to their purpose–teaching and learning, and not litigation and the fear of litigation–is worth pursuing. Thank you for this piece. Let’s hope it gets the conversation started–

  5. I wonder how he feels about wearing an American flag in school on May 5th?

  6. I’m surprised that anyone is allowed to wear a U.S.-themed anything in this country’s K-12 schools anymore. Our country is on a suicidal path – it’s like half our population wants this country to dissipate, and another 1/4 of our population doesn’t care and never did. So, only 1/4 of our population is even trying to hold our country together at this point…