Not so long ago, high school students were seen and not heard. However, in 1965, three Iowa teenagers changed all that.
That year, John Tinker and his younger sister, Mary Beth, along with their friend Christopher Eckhardt, decided to wear black armbands to school as a show of protest against the Vietnam War. The principals of their schools immediately banned the wearing of armbands to school. All three students refused to comply with this policy, and all three were suspended from school until after January 1, 1966, when their protest was scheduled to end.
What began as a small issue in Des Moines, Iowa, was picked up by many other groups, making national news. The Tinkers and Eckhardts eventually took their case to the Supreme Court, where it was decided that the First Amendment guaranteed the students’ right to free speech in the classroom.
Fast-forward to 2002, when the Olympic torch made its way through the United States in advance of the Winter Games in Salt Lake City. As the torch passed through Juneau, Alaska, 18-year-old Joseph Frederick displayed a banner reading "BONG HiTS 4 JESUS" across the street from his high school. The school’s principal immediately took the sign away and suspended Joseph; Joseph then sued, claiming his constitutional rights to free speech were violated.
Again, the suit went all the way to the Supreme Court. However, in this case, the Supreme Court concluded that school officials did not violate the First Amendment by confiscating the pro-drug banner and suspending the student responsible for it. The decision was made because it was determined that Frederick’s banner has the potential to disrupt the tone of the school, as well as reflect poorly upon the reputation of the school.
So what does this bit of history have to do with Greenwood?
“Students do, and should, have a voice, but that voice must be used in reasonable ways,” said Principal Hardy at November 14’s assembly, where the cases above were discussed.
“Voice matters at Greenwood, and it’s important that you have ways to express it. Your Student Council representatives—Damon Carrington and Sammy Kronick —bring your thoughts and concerns to school administration through weekly meetings with Ms. Audet and me, and we take that feedback seriously. Our student paper, The Village Green, is another vehicle you can use to express your voice, and administration plays a very minimal role in approving the content of the paper.
“Recently, it was brought to my attention that one of our students has created a Tumblr account about life here at school that many students have been regularly accessing. While many of the posts are clever and witty, some of the posts contain language that is inappropriate
“It’s wonderful that you are using social media tools like Tumblr – they are a vital part of the increasingly digital world in which we live. However, it’s important to remember that we all – students and staff alike – manage Greenwood’s reputation. As students, we know you do this very well, whether you’re interacting with our neighbours, volunteering in Regent Park, or representing Greenwood as a student ambassador or on a sports team. Our digital presence is part of that reputation, and we need your help to make sure that what appears online under Greenwood’s name is an accurate reflection of what our school is all about. As I mentioned to you earlier this year, your willingness to do the right thing is a vital part of our school community.”