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Appeals court throws out Iowa student's "name-calling" conviction

(04/22/14 2:29pm)

The justice system increasingly is being asked to intercede in unpleasant social interactions involving young people that, once upon a time, used to get settled through a stern lecture and a parental conference. In Pennsylvania, police charged a 15-year-old with the crime of "disorderly conduct" for secretly recording students bullying him during school, a case that prosecutors recently withdrew after a public outcry. And in Iowa, an Allamakee County high school student was hauled into juvenile court and adjudicated "delinquent," the equivalent to a conviction in adult criminal court, for insulting remarks ("you fat, skanky bitch") that she yelled at a rival student while exiting the school bus. In a victory for judicial restraint, the Iowa student's case was overturned April 16 by the Iowa Court of Appeals, which reached the common-sense decision that not every upsetting remark can be criminalized as "harassment." In its ruling, the Court of Appeals found that Iowa's criminal harassment statute -- which outlaws speech that is intended, without legitimate purpose, to "threaten, intimidate or alarm" -- cannot be violated by mere insults.


Schools and administrators among those “honored” by Jefferson Muzzle awards

(04/09/14 7:23pm)

The Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression is out with its 2014 Jefferson Muzzles, the annual award it presents to those that "forgot or disregarded Mr. Jefferson's admonition that freedom of speech 'cannot be limited without being lost.'" As usual, quite a few schools and administrators were recognized with awards. Among the honorees: The University of Kansas board of regents: After a journalism professor tweeted about the National Rifle Association following the September 2013 Naval Yard shooting, he was placed on administrative leave by the university.



A constitutional right to leggings and long hair? When are school dress codes unfashionable?

(04/16/14 4:43pm)

Momentous advances in free-speech law don't always involve historic acts of journalistic courage. Sometimes they start with something as tiny as a kid who doesn't want a haircut. That's what led a Chicago-based federal appeals court to conclude that it can be unlawful gender discrimination to make male high-school athletes, but not female ones, wear their hair short. In a 2-1 ruling issued in February, the federal Seventh Circuit decided that gender-based dress and grooming codes can violate both the federal Title IX gender discrimination statute as well as the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. In sending the case back for trial, the appeals court in Hayden v.



National accolades accompany Tinker Tour 2014 to a triumphant finish line

(04/30/14 11:02am)

Mary Beth Tinker and Mike Hiestand's magical journey across America is winning national recognition for igniting a much-needed dialogue about the importance of protecting students against censorship. Launched on Constitution Day 2013, the Tinker Tour is a nationwide First Amendment awareness campaign bringing the landmark student-speech case, Tinker v.