Drug Policy

Zero Tolerance for Drug Speech?


Kieran King, a Canadian 10th-grader, did some research and discovered that marijuana is not as bad as his government makes it out to be. When he shared this information with his friends at the Wawota Parkland School in Saskatchewan, King says, the school's principal, Susan Wilson, accused him of selling pot and threatened to call the cops. Outraged at the principal's intimidation, King organized a student walkout to protest what he saw as a violation of his right to free speech. Wilson responded by locking down the school and suspending the 15-year-old for three days, which will force him to miss his final exams. Not your average pothead, King says he's never seen marijuana, let alone smoked or sold it. "The main purpose [of the protest] wasn't cannabis," he told the Regina Leader-Post. "It was the defense of the freedom of speech. I believe we have a right to freedom of expression."

With the U.S. Supreme Court expected to issue a ruling soon on the question of whether a high school student has the right to raise a banner declaring "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" at a school-approved, off-campus rally, it's possible that punishing students for controversial drug-related speech like King's will receive judicial approval in this country. The school district's position in the "Bong Hits" case went beyond the argument that principals may restrict student speech when it disrupts learning. The government argued that the banner was contrary to the school's educational mission, which includes anti-drug indoctrination. It does not seem like much of a stretch to claim that sharing accurate information about the relative hazards of marijuana and alcohol with one's fellow students, as King did, is likewise at odds with the educational mission, even if it is not at all disruptive in the usual sense. And as Justice Samuel Alito noted during oral arguments, a school's educational mission can be defined broadly enough to squelch dissenting views on almost any subject.

NEXT: "A Truffle Hound's Nose for the Trite."

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  1. Um, cue “The Voice for School Choice” blogger.

  2. God bless the little tyke. Same first name as me too.

    The kid is going places.

  3. Is it bad that I see this as hastening the fall of the empire, and thus not a bad thing?

  4. The empire of… Canada?

  5. “did some research and discovered that marijuana is not as bad as his government makes it out to be”

    I thought Canada was very pot tolerant?

  6. Wilson responded by locking down the school

    Is there any circumstance under which a school administrator thinks that a “lockdown” is inappropriate? It seems like schools get locked down just because of a stiff breeze.

  7. The USA, actually.

  8. “Kieran King, a Canadian 10th-grader, did some research and discovered that marijuana is not as bad as his government makes it out to be.”

    Obviously the state run school system has failed if this young man can so easily refute all of the govenment lies, er, I mean, statistics that show drugs are bad mmmkay.

  9. To steal a classic H&R hed, it’ll be a beautiful day when the Pentagon has all the money it needs and bombs schools having bake sales.

  10. Why does it seem like I’m getting most of Internet news from reason and FARK these days?

  11. I shudder to think what would have happened if he argued the point that Canada no longer produces the world’s best ice hockey players.

  12. Wait, pot isn’t a demon weed that will turn your beautiful, brilliant child into a sperm-guzzling street junkie dropout whore maniac?


  13. Same first name as me too.

    And coming soon to a no-fly list near you.

  14. When he shared this information with his friends at the Wawota Parkland School in Saskatchewan, King says, the school’s principal, Susan Wilson, accused him of selling pot and threatened to call the cops.

    What I wish he said:
    Go right ahead and call the pigs b-yatch. You gonna try an muscle me? You should live so long.

  15. I sent an email to the school principal (just google the school name (wawota parkland), click their principal link, then change to name of current principal) telling her that by suppressing open discussion of ideas she was doing her students a great disservice.

    Probably won’t do any good, but why not…

  16. While the principal’s authority to squelch pro-MJ speech is questionable, her authority to suspend someone for organizing a walkout isn’t. Whatever one considers the school’s mission to be, a walkout is definitely going to disrupt it. Also, reading the article carefully reveals that this kid and his brother did indeed walk out at the planned time.

    So, kid speaking out about MJ’s relative harmlessness? Good for him. Planning and following through with a walkout? Stupid in the extreme.

  17. My public school experience was before the era of lockdowns, so I might be wrong about this, but is it really a “lockdown” when the doors are unlocked and the only thing blocking your exit from the school is a teacher threatening to report you if you leave?

    I’m pretty sure that’s not how lockdown works at prisons.

  18. I thought Canada was very pot tolerant?

    The three major cities are. Ouside of them not so much.

  19. Dammit, that’s got to be the bleakest H&R post in quite a while.

    That does it, I’m gonna go read the freegans thread. That one oughta be funny. Silly freegans. Who’s a silly freegan? Who’s a silly freegan now? In fact, I’m gonna go toss out half an Archer Farms “Organic Goat Cheese and Spinach Pizza” in the dumpster, and then go refill the birdfeeders.

  20. lunchstealer, talk about a bleak post! Except of course from the birds’ perspective. 😉

  21. So, kid speaking out about MJ’s relative harmlessness? Good for him. Planning and following through with a walkout? Stupid in the extreme.

    What bothers me is, as is often the case, the kid is squeeling “free speech!!!” when

    a)it’s always been pretty clear, in modern day times, that kids in school do not have full constitutional rights and

    b)he’d be a lot better off emphasizing the mis-information they are receiving and most importantly, the poor educational environment they have, in which an intellectually honest debate scares the crap out of the admins.

    In those terms, parents might actually pay attention, whereas crying free speech and staging a walkout only confirms (in their mind) parents’ fear about teenagers.

  22. It does not seem like much of a stretch to claim that sharing accurate information … is likewise at odds with the educational mission, …

    Forgive me for the loose quoting, but I couldn’t pass up the irony.

  23. My 13 year old daughter recently, in response to an assignment for each kid to stand in front of the class and give their opinion on an assigned topic, gave the libertarian viewpoint on taxes. In response, her public school teacher took her aside afterwards and said her remarks were “inappropriate”, and said she’d get detention if she expressed views like that again.

  24. jh – I am very sorry to hear that.

  25. jh,

    I don’t know how to ask this without coming across as a dickhead, but are you sure that’s what actually happened, and your daughter’s not just exaggerating? That’s, well, unbelievable.

    And if that is what happened, I’d love to see what happened if your daughter did express such views again. I don’t think the school board would be able to sanction explicit censorship of political speech when such was the nature of the assignment, but then again I’m not a parent and don’t have experience with such things.

  26. crimethink — Good point, not dickish in any way. I offered to talk with my daughter’s teacher and get her side of the story, but my daughter didn’t want to get her teacher in trouble.

    But, this particular daughter isn’t prone to exaggeration. OTOH if my wife the drama queen had made such a statement … Anyway, we had a great half-hour chat about what libertarianism is, why taxes are theft, and why public schools are extremely unlikely to ever introduce the topic of smaller government (and smaller public school funding) working better. I also warned her that the First Amendment right to free speech doesn’t come with a right against consequences of exercising that right, especially when voicing extreme minority views that other people have a vested interest in suppressing.

    I’d like to have that chat with the teacher, but I respect my daughter’s right to be left alone to deal with this on her own if she chooses.

    On the other hand, my daughter got a perfect score on a quiz where she repeated my notion that government intervention caused the Great Depression, and FDR prolonged it, so her experience with libertarianism hasn’t been all bad.

    Looking forward to having The Facts Of Life talk about libertarianism with my other ankle-biters when they’re old enough to grasp it.

  27. jh, what the hell do you think you are doing? Don’t you know that a child’s brain isn’t fully developed until the mid-20s. Exposing your children to extremist political views is tantamount to child abuse.

    Expect a visit from your local child protective services agency.

  28. When I was a teen I wrote a regular libertarian column in the teen section of my local newspaper. Once I wrote in favor of ending the war on drugs. The head of the English department at my public high school went ballistically apeshit nukular on me. He was red in the face, screaming and throwing things across the room. He called me all sorts of names, and threatened all sorts of sanctions against me. I was sort of worried for my safety.

    I calmly maintained the position that I could write whatever I wanted in the local paper, and he didn’t really get to have a say in it. Of course, I was right and nothing ever happened. Still, the incident left me a little taken aback.

  29. Some of you people are crazy — how can you criticize the kids for organizing a walkout? For demanding that their voices be heard?

    I guess the sit-ins in segregated restaurants in the South were just a bunch of kooky tomfoolery.

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