Bretton Barber, a 16-year-old student in Dearborn, Mich wore a T-shirt that featured a picture of President Bush and the words “international terrorist.” Administrators, however, saw in the statement a potential for increased tension in the school, which is about 55 percent Arab-American. Barber was given the choice of either taking off the shirt or going home. He can be proud that he chose the former, but he shouldn’t have had to.
In 1965, three students in Des Moines, Iowa, chose to protest the Vietnam War by wearing black arm bands to school. They also were sent home and suspended until they removed the arm bands. However, the Supreme Court ruled four years later that the students should have been allowed to protest the war in such a way, so long as there was no evidence that it would interfere substantially with school discipline.
The spokesman for Barber’s school is quoted by The Associated Press as saying, “It was felt that emotions are running very high.”
It’s true that high schools are emotional places, but that cannot be considered evidence of a substantial interference with discipline lurking in the future — and even if it were true, suppressing opinions that war might not be the best option is not the best way to ease those emotions.
More importantly, those are emotions that shouldn’t necessarily be eased. High school administrators have become too concerned with keeping students sedate. Instead, our fear should be that students are leaving without experience in expressing their opinions in peaceful and constructive ways.
Expression of political dissent should be an art that high school students at least have the option of learning. The alternative is raising a society too polite to think for itself.
University Wire — Baylor U.