Sonia Sotomayor’s rulings have become scrutinized since President Obama nominated the “wise Latin lady” to the Supreme Court, but she probably didn’t anticipate the famous “Douche Bag case” becoming part of the public debate.
NBC affiliate in Connecticut reports:
In August 2007, Judge Sonia Sotomayor sat on a panel that ruled against an appeal in Doninger v. Niehoff.
Avery Doninger was disqualified from running for school government at Lewis S. Mills High School in Burlington after she posted something on her blog, referring to the superintendent and other officials as “douche bags” because they canceled a battle of the bands she had helped to organize.
The case went to court and in March 2008, Sotomayor was on a panel that heard Doninger’s mother’s appeal alleging her daughter’s free speech and other rights were violated. Her mother wanted to prevent the school from barring her daughter from running.
Sotomayor joined two other judges from the 2nd Circuit in ruling that the student’s off-campus blog remarks created a “foreseeable risk of substantial disruption” at the student’s high school and that the teenager was not entitled to a preliminary injunction reversing a disciplinary action against her, Education Week reports.
In their opinion, the judges said they were “sympathetic” to her disappointment at being disqualified from running for Senior Class Secretary and acknowledged her belief that in this case, “the punishment did not fit the crime.”
However, the judges decided they were not called upon to determine if school officials acted wisely.
“As the Supreme Court cautioned years ago, “[t]he system of public education that has evolved in this Nation relies necessarily upon the discretion and judgment of school administrators and school board members,” and we are not authorized to intervene absent “violations of specific constitutional guarantees.”
The ruling in this case has come under heavy criticism from some civil libertarians. Some say this case presents a solid rationale for rejecting Judge Sonia Sotomayor of New York’s Second Circuit Court of Appeals to fill the seat of retiring Justice David Souter.
“The continual expansion of the authority of school officials over student speech teaches a foul lesson to these future citizens,” Jonathan Turley, a law professor at George Washington University, told the New Britain Herald. “I would prefer some obnoxious speech [rather] than teaching students that they must please government officials if they want special benefits or opportunities.”
The issue of free speech in schools is one that I became interested in after students were expelled for wearing anti-Obama t-shirts to high school during the election. I also recall students being kicked out for wearing pro-GITMO shirts and American flags.
I believe that students are in school to learn and part of their education is learning to interact with people who do not have the same sensibilities as oneself (“tolerance” in Liberal speak, when referring to anti-Conservative rhetoric.) The student in this case had every right to call the administrators as douche bag; it wasn’t on school property and it was the student’s privately held opinion.
The fact that freedom of speech is continually being defined in ever more narrow terms is disconcerting. The fact that a child can’t call the superintendent a douche bag teaches her what, exactly? That she should be a docile student who doesn’t dare speak up?
I am glad these cases are being reviewed. I am thrilled that the girl who called her superintendent a douche bag is being repeated and amplified because a new douche bag is about to be confirmed onto the Supreme Court. Circle of life.