A judge in Charleston, West Virginia had to take time out of his busy schedule to rule on a case involving a 15-year old high school sophomore and her right to free speech.
The girl, a tenth grader at Sissonville High School, had been suspended for three days for trying to organize an “Anarchy Club” and for wearing a t-shirt that voiced her opposition to U.S. presence in Afghanistan.
Before we go any further with this story, let us look up the meaning of the word “anarchy.” Taken from the big, fat Webster’s Seventh New Collegiate Dictionary, the one with the notches cut in the pages so that we can easily skip right to the letter we’re looking for, we find that “anarchy” is described as a noun, meaning “an absence of order or government.”
You can see why the school would get itchy about having an Anarchy Club meeting in the Spanish room during seventh period. But even funnier that that is the thought of a club or organization to promote anarchy, which, as we just read in the dictionary, is “an absence of order.”
“I’d like to bring this first meeting of the Anarchy Club to order.”
And who, exactly, would organize such an event? The sophomore? How exactly do you put together a rally of anarchists? Do you put up poster that read, “Everyone who is in favor of no rules or regulations be here at exactly four o’clock”?
Does she open her meeting by voting for a President? “All in favor, say ‘aye’. Come on, guys. Somebody say ‘aye’ or we can’t start. Hey! Quit burning the curtains, Timmy!”
As ridiculous as it sounds, think back to when you were in high school. I don’t know what the caption that accompanied your dorky senior picture in the class yearbook read like, but mine was made up almost entirely of events and clubs I’d only attended once. The Key Club? What the heck was that? DECA? Yeah. I remember being given some candy bars to sell. I think I ate them all and stuck my dad for the 100 bucks, somehow. The French Club? Be serious. The only reason I went to my lone meeting of The French Club was to get closer to a girl whose name I honestly can no longer recall, but with whom I wanted to practice my French.
I joined the Forensics Society because I thought that it had something to do with trees and I liked the woods. As it turned out, it was about making speeches.
Now, the word forensics has to do mostly with the study of dead bodies and murder clues. When you look in my high school yearbook and see that I was a member for three years, you may think that I went into the field of Crime Investigation.
But as it turned out, it was all about making speeches.
I have to admit, though, that I would have been a lot more proud to have sported such a cool line next to my photo as “Anarchy Club, 2,3,4.” How about whipping that out at the 25th class reunion?
“And then, after getting out of the Federal Penitentiary, I met Barbara and we have three fine children – Patti, Jerry, and little Chicago Seven.”
Katie Sierra is the name of the 15-year old who wished to organize the club that stands against organization. She was suspended from Sissonville High, which is just outside of Charleston, when she continued to wear T-shirts to school, lettered with phrases such as, “When I saw the dead and dying Afghan children on TV, I felt a newly recovered sense of national security. God Bless America.”
Must have been a very big shirt. Or very small printing.
I remember, once, getting into trouble for wearing a shirt that promoted an oyster house somewhere near the shore. The phrase plastered on the shirt was “Eat Me Raw.” And while I’d like to now think of myself as having an interest in world politics, my knowledge of world events when I was a sophomore in high school could pretty much be explained by the phrase on the shirt I was asked not to wear again. Hey, world. Eat me raw.
I don’t have a problem, or for that matter, much interest in a tenth grader somewhere in West Virginia who is against the bombing of civilians in Afghanistan.
The problem I have, and the reason I bring this subject to you today, is that a Circuit Court Judge had to fit this foolishness into his already busy daily schedule. Judge James Stuckey yesterday ruled that free speech was indeed, “sacred” but he found that such rights are “tempered by the limitations that they not disrupt the educational process.”
In other words, shut up and get back to class.
In my opinion (if I may express it), the school should have let her have her club. The result would have been poor attendance, eventual apathy, and four or five kids being able to fill in the section next to their school picture (the one reserved for “after school activities”) with something interesting. Interesting to them. Interesting to their proud parents. And of course, interesting to possible future employers.
“Hey. Timmy. I see here you were a member of the Anarchy Club. We here at Chic-Fil-A are always looking for up and comers like you. How do you feel about mayonnaise?”
I have to go now. I’m late for my club meeting. It’s the Ambivalent Club. I think the meeting is this afternoon. Somewhere.