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High school year books confiscated due to senior’s ‘Build That Wall’ quote

A high school in North Carolina has collected all of the yearbooks that were distributed to students due to some “inappropriate” comments, including President Trump’s (in)famous phrase “Build That Wall.”

The News & Observer reports the Trump quote made by a Richmond Early College High School senior was “slammed on social media by some students and others who called it racist and hurtful to classmates.”

Thankfully for the school, only a smattering of the books had been given out before the “offensive” statements were noticed by Principal Tonya Waddell.

The district did not provide any other examples of what was deemed improper, but noted no students were disciplined.

From the story:

“As a district, we do not and will not tolerate inappropriate conduct toward any of our students,” the school district’s post said. “In each situation, our goal is to provide for the well-being of all of our students and prevent recurrences of inappropriate conduct.”

The books cost between $30 and $39, depending on how early they were bought. After the publishing company was contacted about the possibility of reprinting them, it was decided that there would not be enough time to distribute a new version before school lets out for the summer on May 18, [district spokeswoman Ashley-Michelle] Thublin said.

Everyone who had paid for a yearbook will be fully reimbursed, she said. The school system has not yet responded to an inquiry about how the cost of printing will be paid.

Comments on both the News & Observer piece and school district Facebook post run the gamut from claiming the school’s actions violate the First Amendment, to the school has every right to do as it wishes regarding the yearbook.

Perhaps there was something “worse” than “Build That Wall” in the book; if not, it seems the school would be on dubious constitutional grounds. Immigration is legitimate political topic, and construction of a border wall is a legitimate, albeit partial, solution to the illegal immigration problem.

The US Supreme Court noted in Tinker that “It can hardly be argued that either students or teachers shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate.” It also put forth that (student) conduct must “materially and substantially interfere” with the educational process in order for speech to be prohibited.

Nevertheless, the high court has “contained” Tinker in the last 30 years or so, arguably beginning with the Hazelwood decision. More recently, it refused to hear an appeal from several students who were prohibited (at school) from wearing American flag t-shirts on Cinco de Mayo.

There is also the Morse case in which the court upheld a prohibition on a student’s placard with the phrase “Bong Hits 4 Jesus.” In the decision, however, Justices Alito and Kennedy wrote the court’s decision “provides no support for any restriction of speech that can plausibly be interpreted as commenting on any political or social issue” (including opposition to current drug laws).

Is not “Build That Wall” a comment on a political issue?

Read the full article.

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About the Author
Associate Editor
Dave has been writing about education, politics, and entertainment for over 20 years, including a stint at the popular media bias site Newsbusters. He is a retired educator with over 25 years of service and is a member of the National Association of Scholars. Dave holds undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Delaware.