Thursday, September 17, 2009

What happens at the schoolhouse door

A great companion story to the chili pepper incident.

Today a student who has strong atheist views taped a sign to his shirt that read "GOD DOES NOT EXIST." When I asked him to have a chat with me about it, he said "It's my first amendment right to wear it, and there's a Supreme Court precedent."

I asked the Spanish teacher involved in the chili pepper incident to get in on this conversation with me. Then I asked the kid if he'd ever heard of the concept of the social contract. He hadn't, so I explained that when we decide to join a community, we give up some of our rights so that we can get the benefits of being in that community. In this case, we give up some of our free speech rights if they take away from other people's ability to learn.

The Spanish teacher jumped in, and it was amazing to hear her spouting back the exact same arguments I'd made against the mustached, sombreroed chili pepper. "Our school's policy is that if it offends one person, we don't allow it," she said, "and as a Christian, I am offended by your sign."

The student then said that our policy was unconstitutional. I said that there have been court precedents on both sides of the issue. But that if he was concerned about the policy, he should put together a case and come to a board meeting.


Julie said...

I think the question that should be asked is: if another student showed up with a shirt that said "Jesus is the Light the Truth and the Way" would you treat them the same?

Or is this more of a "majority" vote?

I ask because the student who wore the "God Does Not Exist" shirt could turn back around on you if another student ever does wear a Jesus shirt to school. You will have to stick with what you initially said, yes? What then?

julie said...

I tend to agree with you. But our policy is our policy. If it applies to the chili pepper with the mustache, then it should apply to "God does not exist." And if that's the only way I can get certain teachers to buy into it, then it's worth it to me!