A federal appeals court has ruled that schools can ban the American flag in order to prevent violence.

Bad news for free speech: A federal appeals court has ruled that schools can ban the American flag in order to prevent violence.

The court’s ruling: School administrators can force you to remove your American-flag tee if the alternative is a classmate punching you in the face. That’s because, per the Supreme Court, students don’t have the same free speech rights at school that adults do on other public grounds. At school, the name of the game is order and instruction; you’re entitled to free expression to the extent you don’t interfere with those goals, but once you do, the school’s entitled to limit your expression accordingly.

In other words, a bully can get the principal’s office to silence you by promising to beat your ass if they don’t.

This is, as Eugene Volokh notes, a classic “heckler’s veto” in that it rewards a violent actor by suppressing the speech that’s irritated him instead of punishing him for being violent.

So, according to this ruling, the only people who will have free speech will be those willing to threaten, and even use violence. A foolish and mindless ruling, if I ever saw one.

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5 comments

  • joe

    A great intellect on the bench, not! what exactly are the qualifications to be a judge on the supreme court, sadly common sense does not seem to apply.

  • Carl

    Love your site but I think you are wrong when you slam the judicial ruling. It’s the policy of the school that is providing the heckler’s veto. The judges are merely saying the school has the right to an unwise policy.

  • PeterF

    This government school would ban a red white and blue flag, but I would be willing to bet they wouldn’t object to a red white and blue “O”

  • Edward

    So let me see if I understand.

    (Apart from threats, bullying, and violence now being acceptable on school grounds) anti-patriotism is acceptable on school grounds, but patriotism isn’t. Who is being unpatriotic, an American citizen or foreign student? If it is an American student, then he has been poorly taught (this also seems acceptable on school grounds). If it is a foreign student, then he is ungrateful for the free education that this great country provides him.

    “If you want to make your classmate shut up, you need to credibly threaten violence. That’s how ‘free speech’ works in the nation’s schools.”

    Expanded freedom for the thugs, reduced freedom for the victims. As I recall, that is how the Nazi party gained power, by physically beating up any opposition until it quit the electoral race. It was an effective method of “shut-uppery.” Learn from history, America, or we are doomed to relive it.

    The “adults” in this nation seem to be truly stupid. How did we ever make this nation great?

  • Robert Clark

    We’ll agree to disagree on this one, RZ. Important to know the intent of those wearing the flag. My opinion was the intent was to denigrate the students of Mexican descent. If whites of Irish or Italian descent can have days to celebrate their heritage and can conduct parades on those days, why can not those of Mexican ancestry?
    I despise censorship, but I despise racism even more.

    Bob Clark

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