Friday, October 14, 2011

The First Amendment

Now, before we begin, anyone that knows me is that I'm all "Yay Team Gay!!" What I'm about to say isn't anti-LGBT. It's pro first amendment.

A teacher in New Jersey is under fire for anti-gay remarks on her Facebook. The remarks were crude and crass, but not threatening (in a yelling fire in a crowded theater way). I did want to smack this person with a clue-by-four though for the following reasons:
  • Make your Facebook friends only, stupid.
  • You are a Public School Teacher. This means you are under a microscope. See above.
Public school teachers have been fired for pictures of them with drinks in their hands. Yes, teachers of legal drinking age have been fired for drinking in public, and for those pictures ending up on Facebook.

But while I hate what the teacher said, it is his right to say it. The Supreme Court upheld the WBC's right to picket funerals. Do I hate what they do? Yes. Do they have the right to stand on public property and be stupid? Yes. Did this guy have the right to say stupid shit online? Yes, as long as it's inciting violence. In American you have the right to be stupid. We also have the right to mock your closeminded biggot-ness.

Things get a tiny bit trickier, but to borrow from Wikipedia: In Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District (1969), the Supreme Court extended broad First Amendment protection to children attending public schools, prohibiting censorship unless there is "substantial interference with school discipline or the rights of others." While what the teacher said was awful, her opinion wasn't violating the rights of others. Acting on it would be, and in my opinon, that's when legal action should be taken.

We've hit a tricky point in our history. Each side of each and every issue has things to say. They all are hurtful to the other side. One side cites the First Amendment, the other gets lawyers. It's been going on forever, and it gets us nowhere. I think that this teacher should be monitored, so we all make sure she's in fact doing her job, and that no one is being discriminated against in her class and let her school administration take it from there.

People were once fired for being gay. Now people are fired if they are anti-gay. Why don't we let people have an opinion, let people have an opposing opinion, and then get back to the business of cramming for the state tests.

And as an aside, celebrating any -Month at a school usually involves a display and a blurb on the announcements. African American History Month, Women's History Month, LGBT History Month, Any History month is a nice idea, but in this time of NCLB and strict state standards it's more than a passing nod to that material. Let's face it, if you want those groups to be celebrated, make sure that they are included in the curriculum.

And, because I don't say it as well as some, Andrew Shepard's take on the First Amendment.
America isn't easy. America is advanced citizenship. You gotta want it bad, 'cause it's gonna put up a fight. It's gonna say "You want free speech? Let's see you acknowledge a man whose words make your blood boil, who's standing center stage and advocating at the top of his lungs that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours. You want to claim this land as the land of the free? Then the symbol of your country can't just be a flag; the symbol also has to be one of its citizens exercising his right to burn that flag in protest. Show me that, defend that, celebrate that in your classrooms. Then, you can stand up and sing about the "land of the free"

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