Friends’ jokes deemed ‘harassment’

A black guy and a white guy are joking around while playing beer pong in a college dorm room. The black student shouts “Team Nigga” when his team scores a point. The white student, a football team mate, says, “How about a white power?,” an inside joke. The black student replies, “White power!” Someone down the hall hears the jokes. Both students were found guilty of creating a “hostile and discriminatory environment” at Lewis & Clark College.

“If it really wants to fight racism on campus, Lewis & Clark should stop wasting its time on jokes among friends who happen to have different skin colors,” said Robert Shibley of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE).

College: Radiation therapy is no place for the religious

When Brandon Jenkins was interviewed for a spot in the radiation therapy program at Community College of Baltimore County, he was asked what’s most important to him. He said, “My God.”

“This field is not the place for religion,” wrote program director Adrienne Dougherty in an email explaining his rejection. Now — surprise! — Jenkins has filed a First Amendment lawsuit charging he was rejected because he expressed his religious beliefs.

Beware of dragons

A professor at Bergen Community College (New Jersey) was placed on unpaid leave and required to meet with a psychiatrist because he posted a photo of his young daughter in a T-shirt with a Game of Thrones quote on Google+. Daenarys’ line — “I will take what is mine with fire & blood” – was seen as a threat by an administrator, who happened to be a Google+ contact. A security official thought “fire” was a proxy for “AK-47s” rather than dragons.

Campus “free speech zones” are losing in court. A student prevented from preaching in a courtyard has forced Virginia’s community college system to drop its ban on “demonstrations” by individuals.

‘I’m sick of purity tests’

Ricki is “sick of political purity tests for people.”

You know, if you hint that maybe, just, you know, maybe, it might be kind of okay if a photographer with strong beliefs to the contrary doesn’t want to take on the job of photographing a same-sex wedding, you suddenly become one to be shunned as a wrong-thinker.

Or, if you mention shopping at Hobby Lobby, because that’s literally the only craft store within 100 miles, you’re told “Oh, they oppress women (because, apparently, they won’t give their workers the Plan B pill for free). You shouldn’t shop there.”

Ricki has known people who’d pass the most progressive purity tests  –”and they were huge (forgive the word but it’s the only one that fits) douchebags. Just awful to other people, selfish, ungenerous, snarky.”

Mozilla forced out its new CEO, Brendan Eich, because he donated $1,000 to a California ballot measure opposing same-sex marriage in 2009.

Disgusting, writes Andrew Sullivan. “If this is the gay rights movement today – hounding our opponents with a fanaticism more like the religious right than anyone else – then count me out.”

In 2009, Eich shared the view of gay marriage that Barack Obama held, instead of the view that Dick Cheney held, writes Instapundit.

Student suspended for questioning governor

After questioning Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy about gun control legislation, Asnuntuck Community College student Nicholas Saucier was escorted off campus, suspended and found guilty of harassment. At his hearing, officials refused to review his videos of the incident, complains FIRE.

Most community college professors don’t speak out on education issues, writes an instructor. “Many two-year campuses are run more like high schools than colleges . . . Much like school principals, some community-college presidents believe it is their role, and theirs alone, to speak out on issues of concern.”

Court: U.S. flag is unsafe at U.S. school

Flag T-shirts banned on Cinco de Mayo in Morgan Hill

Daniel Galli, Austin Carvalho, Matthew Dariano and Dominic Maciel and (not shown) Clayton Howard were asked to turn their American flag T-shirts inside out or go home when they wore them to Live Oak High School in Morgan Hill on Cinco de Mayo. (Julie Fagerstrom)

It’s not safe to display the American flag at an American high school, writes Eugene Volokh in his Washington Post blog. The Ninth Circuit Court upheld a California high school’s decision to forbid students from wearing American flag T-shirts on Cinco de Mayo because Mexican-American students had threatened violence the year before.

Under the Supreme Court’s Tinker decision, student speech may be restricted if “school authorities [can reasonably] forecast substantial disruption of or material interference with school activities” stemming from the speech. The earlier threats of racial violence justified the flag ban, the court ruled.

This is a classic “heckler’s veto” — thugs threatening to attack the speaker, and government officials suppressing the speech to prevent such violence. “Heckler’s vetoes” are generally not allowed under First Amendment law; the government should generally protect the speaker and threaten to arrest the thugs, not suppress the speaker’s speech. But under Tinker‘s “forecast substantial disruption” test, such a heckler’s veto is indeed allowed.

“Schools have special responsibilities to educate their students and to protect them both against violence and against disruption of their educations,” writes Volokh, a UCLA law professor. But what a sad situation.

Somehow, we’ve reached the point that students can’t safely display the American flag in an American school, because of a fear that other students will attack them for it — and the school feels unable to prevent such attacks (by punishing the threateners and the attackers, and by teaching students tolerance for other students’ speech). Something is badly wrong, whether such an incident happens on May 5 or any other day.

Live Oak High School students have learned a simple lesson, Volokh concludes. “If you dislike speech and want it suppressed, then you can get what you want by threatening violence against the speakers.” Thuggery pays.

Speech-zone suit costs college $50,000

California’s Modesto Junior College has agreed to drop its “free speech zone” and pay $50,000 to settle a First Amendment lawsuit. Robert Van Tuinen, an Army veteran turned photography student, was prevented from passing out copies of the Constitution on campus.

Newark principals sue over suspensions

Five Newark school principals suspended for speaking out against the superintendent’s school reorganization plan have filed a free-speech lawsuit reports the Newark Star-Ledger.

New Jersey took over the troubled district. Superintendent Cami Anderson’s turnaround plan is very controversial.

Four principals — H. Grady James of Hawthorne Avenue School, Tony Motley of Bragaw Avenue School, Dorothy Handfield of Belmont Runyan School and Deneen Washington of Maple Avenue School — were suspended with pay Jan. 17, two days after they spoke at a community meeting at a Newark church intended to oppose Anderson’s One Newark plan.

The principals work at schools affected by the plan. Hawthorne and Bragaw are targeted for use by charter schools and Maple is set to become an early childhood learning center. Belmont Runyon has been designated a “renew” school, which means new leadership will be installed and teachers will be asked to reapply for their positions. Brown’s school, Ivy Hill, is designated for “redesign.”

The fifth principal, Lisa Brown of Ivy Hill Elementary, was suspended for not heeding the district’s ban on Daryn Martin, the head of Ivy Hill’s parent-teacher organization who was escorted from the school Jan. 15 after he protested the removal of fliers he posted that were critical of the reorganization plan.

Motley, James and Handfield are now back to work at their schools. Brown and Washington will be reassigned.

“The school district has violated their rights and we’d like a judge to say that,” attorney Robert Pickett said. “Public employees have a right to talk about issues of public concern.”

Do principals have a right to oppose district policy and keep their jobs?

FIRE: 59% of colleges restrict free speech

Nearly 60 percent of U.S. colleges and universities restrict free speech rights, according to Spotlight on Speech Codes 2014 by FIRE (Foundation for Individual Rights in Education).

The good news: For the sixth consecutive year, however, this percentage has dropped.

The federal government is sending confusing messages about the relationship between harassment and free speech, the report notes.

It’s not PC or censorship

Common Core State Standards “and standardized testing are trying to make teachers into KAPOs, a Nazi concentration camp prisoner who was given privileges if they would supervise work gangs,” wrote a reader commenting on Diane Ravitch’s blog. She goes on to reference Schindler’s List and her relatives killed in the Holocaust.

When readers objected to the analogy, Ravitch wrote: “I find this argument to be a form of political correctness that is used to censor opinion. If anyone wants to use an analogy to make a point, that is their choice.” She defended the posting on Twitter as a free speech issue.

This isn’t about political correctness or censorship, responds Daniel Willingham.

First, he writes, the analogy trivializes enormous suffering. Test takers are not in any way like Holocaust victims just as students asked to perform public service are not comparable to slaves.

If a reformer said schools are concentration camps where teachers brutalize their students . . . It’s insulting, isn’t it?

Willingham also disagrees that it’s censorship to tell people you think their analogy is “ill-considered and offensive.”

 . . .  if she had asked the author to change the analogy or had refused to post the piece because of the analogy, I would not call that censorship. The author does not have a guaranteed right to post what she likes in Diane’s blog, a right that Diane would have been infringing. Diane was a offering a platform for this author’s voice, and obviously she offers that platform to voices she thinks are worth amplifying.

This situation is not comparable to that documented in The Language Police, in which enormous power was concentrated in the hands of few publishers. If an author wanted to publish a textbook they had to toe the line drawn by the publishers or give up on publishing the book. That power relationship does not exist in this case. This is the internet, for crying out loud.

He asks Ravitch to rethink her position.

I agree with Willingham. I’d add that the analogy is ridiculous and therefore unpersuasive.