Back in the innocent days of 1967-70, I attended Benjamin Franklin Junior High School in the Wayne-Westland Community School District in Michigan. District motto: “Absolutely, entirely, completely dedicated to mediocrity.” Like most junior high schools, grades 7-9, it mysteriously has been transformed into a middle school, grades 6-8.
In 1967-68, Franklin had a simple dress code: Nice shirt and slacks for boys; skirts or dresses for girls with the hem below the knee. Fridays were “casual days,” allowing jeans and t-shirts. Students “tested authority” by wearing casual clothes on Mondays through Thursdays, getting a reprimand or being sent home. Girls, this was the miniskirt year, wore their skirts above their knees.
Then came the Feb. 24, 1969 U.S. Supreme Court ruling, Tinker vs. Des Moines Independent Community School District. It was one of a series of Warren Court rulings demonstrating there was nothing “independent” about that or any other local public-school district in America; that the schools were not controlled by parents or the local school board, but by the courts, the federal education bureaucracy and the teachers’ unions.
The decision concerned arm bands worn by students in 1965 protesting the Vietnam War. The court said the students had a First Amendment right to wear them. Franklin implemented the decision by throwing out the dress code, allowing jeans and t-shirts, including by girls, at any time.
Being a natural reactionary, I stopped wearing jeans to school, even on Fridays.
Fast-forward to 2015. Now there’s one thing no longer considered protected speech for public-school students: Old Glory.
According to CBS San Francisco: “The United States Supreme Court has denied an appeal from former Morgan Hill high school students who were ordered to turn their American flag tee-shirts inside out during Cinco de Mayo celebration at their school in 2010.”
The school had cited the Tinker decision, which had allowed bans of something that could “materially and substantially interfere” with school operations. The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeal upheld the school’s action, which now is the law, at least under its jurisdiction, because of the high court’s inaction. Both conservative and liberal commentators decried the action on free-speech grounds.
But this isn’t something conservatives should get in a tizzy about. Sure it’s an outrage. But as I keep saying, we’re always going to lose these cases. Rather, conservatives should pull their kids out of the public schools, either send them to decent private or parochial schools, or homeschool them. The “public” schools aren’t your schools anymore. Time to leave.
John C. Seiler, Jr., writes from California.