“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.”