A California judge has blocked a middle school from enforcing a dress code so strict that a student was punished for wearing socks with pictures of Winnie the Pooh on them.We talked about this case back here (where it's clear that the image was not Pooh per se, but Pooh flunky Tigger). I tied it to the then-undecided "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" case:
The judge, Raymond A. Guadagni of Napa County Superior Court, issued a preliminary injunction against Redwood Middle School in Napa on Monday, ruling in favor of students and parents who sued the school in March, claiming that its Appropriate Attire Policy violated the right to free speech.
School officials have said the dress code was established to eliminate gang-related symbols and other provocative images.
But students have been punished for wearing denim, T-shirts with messages that warn against drug use and pink ribbons for breast cancer awareness.
The school has designed its rule to be content- and viewpoint-neutral. I note that [Toni Kay] Scott also got in trouble for wearing a "drug prevention T-shirt." That's a good sign! I support the "Bong hits 4 Jesus" guy, but Tigger-kneesocks-drug-prevention girl needs to deal with it.Now that the "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" guy has lost, is the judge more wrong than he would have been before?
First, I'm not looking at the written opinion, and the judge may well have rested on a state law right to free speech. If that's the case, then "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" is irrelevant (conventional verbiage: except for its persuasive value). [ADDED: The opinion is not available in LEXIS.]
Second, there's a distinction between the two cases, but it's a distinction that I think puts the school in a stronger position, because it's not engaging in viewpoint discrimination (which "Bong Hits" permitted). Although a broader rule may feel more repressive to students, it's the way to make the policy viewpoint neutral.
It is better to forbid all messages, including the do-gooder messages Tigger kneesocks girl chose (wisely) to make her resistance to the policy more effective.