Daily Kos reports getting the following email from one of his readers:
A friend with a child in the Richland County,WI high school where George Bush appears today reports the following. Students were told they could not wear any pro-Kerry clothing or buttons or protest in any manner, at the risk of expulsion. After a parent inquired, an alternative activity will be provided, probably a movie being shown in an auditorium. (The school secretary reportedly said that students had the choice of just staying home if they didn't want to attend the Bush rally, but the principal subsequently offered an alternative.)
As it happens, that school district's superintendent, Rachel Shultz, is the spouse of a Republican candidate for Congress. Ms. Shultz, meet Tinker v. DesMoines. You may get a touch of deja vu, since it covers a pretty similar question: whether a school was empowered to prohibit the wearing of black armbands to protest the Vietnam war. And, stop me if you've heard this one, it turns out that public schools are not, in point of fact, like rallies in some rented auditorium where the audience can be limited to pre-screened sycophants. Let's hear from Abe Fortas for a paragraph or two, below the fold…
In order for the State in the person of school officials to justify prohibition of a particular expression of opinion, it must be able to show that its action was caused by something more than a mere desire to avoid the discomfort and unpleasantness that always accompany an unpopular viewpoint. Certainly where there is no finding and no showing that engaging in the forbidden conduct would "materially and substantially interfere with the requirements of appropriate discipline in the operation of the school," the prohibition cannot be sustained. […]
In our system, state-operated schools may not be enclaves of totalitarianism. School officials do not possess absolute authority over their students. Students in school as well as out of school are "persons" under our Constitution. They are possessed of fundamental rights which the State must respect, just as they themselves must respect their obligations to the State. In our system, students may not be regarded as closed-circuit recipients of only that which the State chooses to communicate. They may not be confined to the expression of those sentiments that are officially approved. In the absence of a specific showing of constitutionally valid reasons to regulate their speech, students are entitled to freedom of expression of their views.