Boca Raton High School in Palm Beach County, Florida, trampled an 18-year-old girl’s free speech rights: the school forced her to change out of a T-shirt that bore the political message “Hillary for Prison.”
The provocative T-shirt drew the ire of student Maxine Yeakle’s classmates, who said they considered all supporters of Donald Trump to be racist, according to The Sun Sentinel. Their criticisms became disruptive, and as a result, Yeakle was sent to the principal’s office. The disrupters were not punished: only the girl whose political advocacy inspired the others to misbehave was punished.
Yeakle was told she had to change into a different shirt or be suspended. Her father chose to pull her out of school:
“My consequence was I either had to wear a shirt that’s kind of, you know, humiliating because I have never gotten a dress code violation before,” or possibly face in-school suspension if she didn’t comply, she said.
District policy prohibits attire that “substantially or potentially disrupts the educational environment.” Courts, unfortunately, have given schools broad latitude to punish political expression when it’s perceived as a nuisance. What happened here is akin to the heckler’s veto: kids had a problem with Yeakle’s opinion, they caused a problem, and Yeakle was censored because of the problem that they caused.
“Hillary for Prison” may not be a politically-correct slogan, but public schools shouldn’t be so eager to punish students for expressing views that make other people a little uncomfortable. They’re teaching young people that they don’t have First Amendment rights, and that’s a problem. Today’s censorship-loving college students learned it somewhere.