New Prague High School senior Andy Dalsin held a poster during the protest which said “Gun Don’t Kill People. People Kill People.” Principal Lonnie Seifert was having none of it, however. Seifert even threatened Dalsin with being hauled away by the police if he didn’t comply.
That’s just the start of it. Things quickly devolved:
Seifert claims he was just going by district policy, according to KSTP-5. In a statement, the district said “such items [as Dalsin’s] must be submitted to and reviewed by school administration at least 24 hours in advance.”
That’s an unenforceable policy because the First Amendment protects such speech. In fact, when the Supreme Court gutted McCain-Feingold, part of the reason for SCOTUS striking it down was because the bill told people when they could and couldn’t run advertising against candidates. This isn’t exactly on point but it’s close.
First, who gave Principal Seifert the constitutional authority to accept or reject communications of any sort? Next, why is expressing a contrarian opinion on another of our civil rights unacceptable? Didn’t the Founding Fathers put the First Amendment into the Bill of Rights to protect contrarian communications? I’ve said this before but I’ll repeat it again — there’s no need to protect non-controversial speech because everyone agrees with it. Finally, the First Amendment implicitly states that nobody in government has the authority to accept or reject student communications.
The video was first posted to Facebook by Kenny MacDonald, a student at New Prague High School in New Prague, Minnesota. The short video does not show what took place before or after the principal singled-out the student. In the post, MacDonald provided the following account of what took place:
Kids at our school today walked out, in honor of the 17 students killed in Florida. Students held signs that said, “Arm our teachers” they had two signs. A student walked out without saying a word peacefully put up his sign which said “guns don’t kill people, people kill people” he was escorted off the property by our principal and threatened to be put into a police car. This violates the first amendment and makes me sick that they can do whatever they want. Please make this go viral
It went viral alright:
Within a few hours, the video had already been viewed nearly 300,000 times, shared over 17,000 times, and received thousands of comments from people who expressed anger and disgust over the suppression of free speech and political indoctrination at public schools.
Then there’s this:
It’s appalling to read that “New Prague Area Schools fully respects and recognizes that students have free speech rights. Those rights, however, are to be balanced against the District’s responsibility to maintain a school environment focused on education.”
New Prague Area Schools obviously doesn’t respect students’ free speech rights because it threatened a student if he didn’t remove his sign. Further, a student’s First Amendment rights aren’t “balanced against the District’s responsibility to maintain a school environment focused on education.” A student’s First Amendment rights are to be balanced against the constitutional tests established by the Supreme Court. In literally hundreds of cases, the Supreme Court (and other appellate courts) have ruled against restrictions placed on people by city governments and school districts.
Finally, it’s frightening that a high school principal has such a flimsy understanding of the First Amendment. The School Board should order him to take an online class on the Constitution and the Bill of Rights from Hillsdale College. Principal Seifert’s understanding of the Constitution is embarrassing.