Mississippi School Bans "Jesus Loves Me" Mask, Allegedly Allows "Black Lives Matter" Masks

The policy forbids "political, religious, sexual or any inappropriate symbols, gestures or statements that may be offensive, disruptive or deemed distractive to the school environment."

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The parents of a third-grader who was forbidden from wearing the "Jesus Loves Me" mask are suing; you can read their motion for a preliminary injunction, and see the policy as attached to their Complaint. (The claim that the "Black Lives Matters" masks are worn without the school objecting is in the Complaint, though ultimately the analysis would be the same even if they were forbidden as "political," itself a pretty vague and potentially viewpoint-based term.)

The policy, I think, is pretty clearly unconstitutional. Tinker v. Des Moines Independent School District (1969) makes clear that such speech in K-12 schools can't be banned unless it "materially disrupts classwork or involves substantial disorder or invasion of the rights of others," and there seems to be no reason to think that this mask would qualify. And though content-neutral and viewpoint-neutral dress codes are generally viewed as constitutional, the Fifth Circuit (where Mississippi is located) has made clear that

  1. "Tinker is triggered by content or viewpoint regulation," and this policy is content-based,
  2. policies that target religious speech for special restriction are viewpoint-based and not just content-based, and
  3. these principles apply to elementary school students and not just to students in higher grades.

Seems like a strong case; I look forward to reading (and perhaps blogging about) the district's response when it comes in. Thanks to Prof. Adam Scales for the pointer.

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  1. Your mistake here is thinking they care about what they’re legally allowed to do. The process is the punishment, and the school district is spending other people’s money to defend their actions.

    Unless they personally suffer consequences that can’t be offloaded onto the taxpayers, they have literally no reason at all to care about the legalities.

    1. If that were the case, it would be a much more common thing than it is.

      1. [citation needed], also definition of “common”.

        1. Brett is arguing that this is something schools want to do for ideological reasons, and that there is currently no deterrent in effect.

          And yet this is not the norm, but rather uncommon enough to be notable when it occurs.

          Thus, as usual, Brett’s assumption of bad faith doesn’t seem to align with reality.

          1. Any evidence that it’s not common?

            1. We first need to agree on a definition of common. I’m inclined to agree with Sarcastr0 that the fact that it’s considered newsworthy strongly suggests it’s not that common.

              1. Part of what makes it newsworthy is the lawsuit, which is a very expensive remedy. It’s quite possible that most first amendment violations by school officials don’t generate lawsuits.

                1. Oh, I don’t know. Every day thousands of lawsuits are filed and most of them never get any publicity. I’ve been in the law business since 1978 and I remember a grand total of three cases that I was involved with making the news.

              2. Filing a lawsuit in response to what the school did is newsworthy. What the school did itself probably goes unreported 99% of the time.

          2. Sarcastro’s the one suggesting that it would be common. I think that unlikely, but there IS a problem here, in that even if they lose the legal battle, they suffer no personal consequences, and they know it.

            So the law doesn’t act as a deterrent. Being reasonable is the main deterrent here, and, I think this is not controversial: Not everybody is reasonable.

          3. Correction: A student filing a lawsuit against the school is uncommon enough to be notable when it occurs.

            Presumably, more than 99.9% of the time, a student will just acquiesce to threats from evil busybody administrators rather than filing a lawsuit.

            1. Except that this is a religious discrimination lawsuit brought by Christians. In my experience, Christians are hyper-sensitive and extremely thin skinned when it comes to claiming that they’ve been discriminated against.

              I once defended a strip-mall landlord who decided not to renew a church’s lease because he wanted to tear down the entire strip mall and build something else. The church decided this was file anti-Christian discrimination and filed a lawsuit. They lost, but not before he’d expended almost $40,000 in legal fees. And when they lost, they told every reporter who would listen how they were the victims of anti-Christian bigotry.

              1. ” In my experience, Christians are hyper-sensitive and extremely thin skinned when it comes to claiming that they’ve been discriminated against.”

                Do you think they’re more hyper-sensitive and thin-skinned than blacks, or less?

                1. I think that in general, blacks don’t expect the system to work for them and Christians do, and that’s reflected in which lawsuits get filed.

                  Which of course is a separate question from whether the hyper sensitivity and thinned skinness are there. And I don’t know the answer to that question.

      2. Sarcastro –

        So you’re saying that it’s very common for school districts to have an institutional desire to inflict particular punishment on anyone expressing the viewpoint that “Jesus loves me” or similar?

        1. Sarcastr0’s point has nothing to do with what particular unconstitutional thing a school district has to do, just that if administrators always did whatever they wanted regardless of the law, we’d see a lot more examples of them doing clearly unconstitutional things. Same argument would apply to prayer in schools or things conservatives might want to do as well, and yet most schools manage to operate within the bounds of the law and the constitution most of the time.

          1. But it’s utterly unrealistic, a mere strawman, to suggest that administrators always do whatever they wanted regardless of the law. Or even that many administrator want to violate the law.

            My only argument is that, when an administrator IS so inclined, the law offers very little deterrent, because they suffer no personal consequences.

            1. Your mistake here is thinking they care about what they’re legally allowed to do. The process is the punishment, and the school district is spending other people’s money to defend their actions.

              Unless they personally suffer consequences that can’t be offloaded onto the taxpayers, they have literally no reason at all to care about the legalities.

              1. Fair enough: “No need to fear legal consequences” isn’t the same thing as “literally no reason”.

                In the case of this particularly administration, though, literally no reason.

            2. We’d have vastly more repeat offenders, even by your revised thesis.

      3. You are confusing the instances of occurrence of something with the instances that something is reported and makes it into the news.

        I thought you were a pro-science kind of guy. You should investigate statistics and data science more.

      4. My dad has been in local politics for quite a while and these nuisance lawsuits any people trying to “stick it” to other people while the government pays the attorney’s fees is pretty common. One municipality has already paid like $300k in legal fees in a wrongful termination case where a newly elected guy fired the previous guy’s son in law.

        Also the local school district by him has lost something like 8 straight expulsion lawsuits.

      5. Obviously, the fact that these sorts of cases are reported so rarely is proof that they are common. We need to get Sidney Powell working on this. Dominion is no doubt responsible for the paucity of evidence.

  2. Is there any evidence that her uncle ‘hay-sus’, from Guatemala, does NOT love her?

    1. Best comment the entire thread.

  3. I’ve actually heard the argument made that “black lives matter” is not political and I think those making that argument sincerely believe that.

    1. I’d say that “black lives matter”, lower case, isn’t political, just a trite sentiment. But “Black Lives Matter” IS political, as the name of a political organization.

      Of course, if “black lives matter” isn’t political, neither is “all lives matter”, so the school would have a lot to explain if they banned that one.

      1. The “all lives matter” mask would be banned thanks to the (violent) heckler’s veto.

    2. This is definitely true, the proponents of systemic racism don’t think it’s controversial at all, it’s a fact just like the sky is blue. If a school permitted a mask that says “atoms exist”, would they then have to permit a mask that say “God exists”?

      1. You have support for your cult, but don’t want support for other faiths?

  4. 1 – I wish the criminal civil rights laws were actually enforced. We are so far past the point where school officials should know that students are absolutely free to express their religious beliefs.

    2 – Also where two completely separate and fundamental rights are involved (speech and free exercise), the standard should be higher than substantial disruption. Something like if OTHER students are causing the disruption (heckler’s veto), then too bad, you need to punish the students causing the disruption, not the one wearing the shirt. Or some kind of heightened it-has-to-be-objectively-offensive before it loses protection, even if it causes disruptions. Basically, elevating objective offense over subjective offense.

    1. 1, absolutely. That is Brett’s point. People need severe criminal and civil punishment, personally, not to their employers, if we ever want to get a hold on this problem.

    2. Which criminal statute do you think was violated here?

      1. Title 18, U.S.C., Section 242 – Deprivation of Rights Under Color of Law

        Whoever, under color of any law, statute, ordinance, regulation, or custom, willfully subjects any person in any State, Territory, Commonwealth, Possession, or District to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured or protected by the Constitution or laws of the United States, … shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than one year, or both; and if bodily injury results from the acts committed in violation of this section or if such acts include the use, attempted use, or threatened use of a dangerous weapon, explosives, or fire, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both; and if death results from the acts committed in violation of this section or if such acts include kidnapping or an attempt to kidnap, aggravated sexual abuse, or an attempt to commit aggravated sexual abuse, or an attempt to kill, shall be fined under this title, or imprisoned for any term of years or for life, or both, or may be sentenced to death.

        1. You’re welcome to bring this matter to the attention of the (Trump-appointed) U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Mississippi. Hint: when they say “Bless your heart,” in the course of showing you the door, don’t be fooled.

          1. Just providing Noscitur a sociis with an answer. You don’t have to like it, that WAS the law they’d be charged under, if it were going to happen.

            As it happens, I agree prosecution is extremely unlikely. That’s the problem! They’re not enforcing this law, so nobody is worried about violating it.

            1. The folks at the SD Miss. might, if you asked politely, explain why there isn’t a crime here, but, of course, you wouldn’t accept the explanation because, as we all know, lawyers routinely tank their clients’ cases.

              1. Why don’t you take their place, then, and explain it. Because the school administration are members of the relevant class, they ARE acting under the color of law, and freedom of speech IS one of the rights protected by the Constitution.

                1. Go ahead and read the statute again. There’s another element you’re overlooking.

        2. And what evidence do you think would establish beyond a reasonable doubt that the school officials were acting willfully?

  5. How does Tinker apply to free exercise? Can schools prevent you from practicing your religion (with non-generally applicable rules) if such an exercise can be disruptive.?

    1. If a school did not permit students to pray because it disrupted class, but permitted comparable secular conduct that disrupted class, I would think that would trigger strict scrutiny and likely be invalidated.

      1. I would hope so, my understanding is that Tinker leaves schools free to ban some disruptive speech, but permit similar disruptive speech.

        1. I think you are correct under Freedom of Speech doctrine, but not under Free Exercise doctrine when the banned speech is religious in nature.

      2. Iirc it went in a backwards sort of way. The teacher pausing before a test so students could pray if they wanted was rejected, but if they had a moment of silence where you could pray, worry, or quietly discuss Star Trek, then it was ok.

        1. There will be prayer in school as long as there is algebra. The only question of any importance is whether there shall be government prayer.

  6. No lives matter. Find me that T shirt. I will wear it.

    Black Lives Matter is a neo-Marxist front organization, funded by a Soros foundation. Its leadership are open Marxists aiming at the destruction of our nation. It should be banned.

    It is a threat to the lives of black people. Wherever it goes, it deters the police. The murder of young black males then surges 30%. The police begin to just answer 911 calls. They take a report. File it. The local black population gets no more police protection. Black Lives Matter is an unmitigated catastrophe for black crime victims and for local black business owners.

    That being said, I support Black Lives Matter. The police are the agents of the prosecutor. They are worthless, big government, lawyer rent seekers. Their real task is to ticket people and to generate $billions for big government.

    All low crime jurisdictions around the world have only 1 thing in common: public self help. The criminals are more afraid of the neighbors than of the police. Black crime victims should arm themselves and kill their attackers. To deter.

    1. Sorry, fixed; thanks for letting me know!

      1. That’s an…interesting policy. Why would they restrict the policy to masks only? As I read it, LB can wear a shirt that says, “Jesus Loves Me,” but not a mask with those same words. What changes between her trunk and her face that makes that statement somehow unacceptable?

  7. I have a hard time understanding why either statement would be considered offensive. That’s just me, so I am out of this discussion.

    1. The only thing that makes “black lives matter” offensive, is that the people who say it freak out if you way, “Well, duh! All lives matter!”

      Which kind of reveals there was an implicit leading “Only”.

      1. No.

        If a house is on fire, and the fire department shows up and starts dousing the entire neighborhood with water because “all houses matter,” they should expect the fire chief to be fired. Because while it’s true that all houses do matter, at this specific point in time there is a particular house in need of special attention.

        1. They have a murder rate 4 times higher than whites. Start there with a lot more police.

        2. Yeah, that argument gets you nowhere. “Black lives” aren’t analogous to houses on fire, they’re more like houses with blue paint instead of green.

          I the slogan were, “disadvantaged lives matter”, you might have a point.

          1. No analogy is perfect, but the point of my analogy is that you give attention to the ones that need it the most. Is there a wave of white people suffering racial discrimination and race-based police brutality? When there is, get back to me.

            1. You just begged the question, because the biggest point of dispute is whether there is, a wave of black people suffering racial discrimination and race-based police brutality. The evidence does not support that conclusion.

            2. “…suffering… race-based police brutality?”

              This is part of the problem. I’ve been speaking out against police brutality for over 20 years. But since I am not focused on “race-based” police brutality I don’t want the problem solved according to most on the left I have encountered.

            3. And you, in a typically racist fashion, think the mere fact that somebody is black demonstrates that they need it the most.

              So the white inhabitant of the ghetto doesn’t need it, and the black stockbroker does?

              1. We’re talking averages.

  8. Would the school have to accept a mask that says on it “Covid Positive”? I have been thinking about making such a mask, I think it would sell well. But I’m not the entrepreneurial type.

  9. I rather think the county has more problems that some religious statement on a little girl’s mask.

    The median income for a household in the county was $28,343, and the median income for a family was $32,797. Males had a median income of $27,197 versus $20,136 for females. The per capita income for the county was $13,344. About 17.50% of families and 21.60% of the population were below the poverty line, including 25.70% of those under age 18 and 21.00% of those age 65 or over.

    Or maybe religion is their problem.

    1. I’m sure AK will chime in with some unnecessary rhetoric here.

    2. She shouldn’t get to express herself because she lives in a poor area? Wow. Just wow.

    3. Toothless, superstitious, bigoted, backwater-dwelling, meth-addicted, gun-toting, bible-thumping, bitter clingers can indulge themselves with their backwards, primitive fairy tales. But only so long as their betters permit.

      This vile human residue is currently in the process of being replaced with educated, progressive, diverse, scientific, successful, functional society. Darwin at work.

      1. Is AK using a different screen name these days? Or was this just perfect satire?

        1. 🙂 was I really that good?

          1. No. And Kirkland wouldn’t use ‘residue,’ it, meaning Kirkland, is too much of a hipster to consider humans in such terms, for all its tough words.

      2. Toothless, superstitious, bigoted, backwater-dwelling, meth-addicted, gun-toting, bible-thumping, bitter clingers

        …hang out at that bar down there. Let’s go!

    4. Unadjusted, those statistics don’t actually tell you much. The cost of living in Simpson County is also substantially below the US average. Median home cost, for example, is $115,500 compared to a US median of $231,200.

      But maybe the root problem is school autocrats worrying more over third-graders’ clothing than their educations. And that is hardly a problem limited to one county.

      1. I wonder why the cost of living is so low? Because the only people who want to live there are deplorable, uneducated, slack-jawed, wingnut, religious extremists subsisting on disability in the rusted shells of their trailers. If you call that “living”, that is.

        1. I know you’re trying to out-rev the Reverend but … Please don’t. He’s not smart enough to know he’s being parodied and others will think you might be serious.

    5. Naw, the poverty statistics are explained by the the county being 35% black.

      https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/simpsoncountymississippi

  10. Is the school trying to say that Jesus does not love black people too?

    1. I wish all of those years ago someone would have said Jesus’ life matters…so sadz. 🙁

      1. Does a life matter if the person is resurrected? Certainly the punishment for murder would be greatly reduced.

        1. One could argue that Jesus’ life mattered because he was murdered (or properly sentenced to death by the civil authorities according the laws of the land to which he was subject to the jurisdiction thereof at the time such judgement was entered.)

  11. Has it occurred to anyone that this happened, if it happened, in Mississippi?

    1. Why is that relevant? The unaccountability of school administrators and other petty bureaucrats is a pretty common theme here. Do you have any reason to believe they would be less unaccountable in Mississippi?

      1. School officials are pretty awful everywhere, but the content of their awfulness differs depending on where they are. Did you really need to be told that?

        1. Apparently I do because I don’t see any significant difference in the nature or magnitude of their awfulness by geography or any other usual metric.

          Some examples:
          – Mississippi kid harassed over a “Jesus Loves Me” mask
          – South Carolina kids told they can’t walk home from school
          – Florida high schooler harassed over a political sign in his truck
          – California kid threatened with truancy for logging onto virtual classroom a few minutes late
          – Louisiana kid suspended for having an unloaded BB gun in his bedroom (and accidentally visible in a zoom class)
          – Illinois kids threatened for wearing pajamas during zoom classes
          – Maryland family’s house searched by police because a BB gun was visible in the background of a zoom class
          – Utah middle schoolers forced to dance with “anyone who asks”
          – Florida 6 year old involuntarily committed to a mental institution despite evidence from the police which contradicted the school’s alleged reason
          – Cops called on Pennsylvania 6 year old with Downs Syndrome who pointed her finger “like a gun” at a teacher
          – Widespread abuse of Illinois “time-out” rooms for offenses such as spilling milk and frustrating teachers
          – Colorado teen suspended for posting picture of self and brother with (legal) gun on snapchat
          – Kansas City 12 year old arrested for “finger guns”
          – In a rare case of accountability, West Virginia teachers and others sued for verbal and physical abuse of autistic 6 year old
          – Pennsylvania school district threatens to put kids in foster care over unpaid lunch debts as low as $10
          – Nebraska school expanding its drug-testing program to include nicotine
          – Maryland school calls cops on 10 year old playing with fake money
          – Massachusetts teacher arrested for planting ammunition in school stairwell in an attempt to justify metal detectors
          – 2 New Jersey students suspended for snapchat pictures of themselves at a gun range

          And I haven’t even gotten partway back to the poor kid who chewed his pop-tart into a “gun” shape.

          The sad truth is that the US educational system has become very uniform in its philosophy, educational approach and values. And distressingly intolerant of those with differing values.

          1. What “U.S. educational system”? Whether for good or ill, the U.S. makes a fetish out of local control. What kinds of “differing values” the locals will be “distressingly intolerant of” is a local issue, as your own examples prove.

            1. While we have the forms of “local control”, local school boards are largely ineffective against teachers and administrators taught from the same curriculum and filtered by the same educational credentialing. As an experiment, what percentage of new teachers do you think vote Republican? Do you think it’s anywhere close to the ratio of the population at large?

              And all that’s before you get to the added problems of local school boards trying to take on the national teachers unions. Local control is something we used to aspire to and still talk about but it has not been a reality for several decades.

              1. K-12 Teachers probably vote more Republican in red counties and more Democrat in blue counties. Unless you’re making the case that teachers are uniquely influenced and buck the statistical trends in their areas. Which would lead one to wonder why a liberal would move to a very conservative town given any kind of choice.

                There’s roughly 350 Million Americans? And the instances you quote above are, I presume, fairly recent–maybe a year or two old at most? And you pulled them from the media? That’s a pretty low number of issues for such a large base population over a span of maybe 24 months.
                https://educationdata.org/k12-enrollment-statistics
                With roughly 50 million kids, this is just the thin tip of a thin fringe of a distribution. All it proves is that people can be jerks in all 50 states but that very few of them let things get to the point where there’s a lawsuit over a trivial thing like a face mask.

  12. What is the point of protecting the third grade girl’s identity by using initials, but identifying both her parents by name and the school she attends?

  13. If Jesus cannot love you in Mississippi, where can He?

    That contemplative comment having been made, I object to the conscription of children to wage adult’s ideological battles. This is my view whether a religious or secular message is in issue.

    I am a little more perplexed by adults wearing political messages in professional settings. One provider I visit routinely wears buttons and I find it discomfiting. Suppose I don’t agree? Will the root canal be all the more probing as a result?

    Unless one is in a setting of complete agreement (boring!) it is possible that speech freedoms in the workplace for adults raise issues as well. Surely adults are more mature than the students in Tinker. Of course they are.

    1. “That contemplative comment having been made, I object to the conscription of children to wage adult’s ideological battles. This is my view whether a religious or secular message is in issue.”

      Without childhood indoctrination, organized religion wouldn’t stand a chance in modern America.

      Choose reason. Every time. Be an adult. Or, at least, try.

      1. Yeah, that’s why leftists are currently conscripting that model of childhood indoctrination (up to and including the children who attend the vaunted “liberal-libertarian” schools without enough spine to refrain from breaking down crying for hearing “bad things”).

        Leftist “reason” according to Artie, the new religion. No less dogmatic, no more fact-based.

    2. If Jesus cannot love you in Mississippi, where can He?

      No where.

      After years and years of unwanted “Christian love”, I got a restraining order.

  14. Simpson County Mississippi, southwest of Jackson, seems an unlikely place for anyone to take issue with “Jesus Loves Me”. It is 64.39% White, 34.31% Black.

    1. Maybe someone wore a pentagram, upside down crucifix, or “Allah loves me” mask and this was the school’s way to silence them? I’m reminded of the conservative school districts that chose to eliminate all after-school clubs in order to prevent LGBT groups from officially forming and meeting on school grounds.

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