Prof. Volokh has a post about a particularly good brief in a student free speech case, filed by the ACLU of Southern California and partly written by a former student of his. The case involves a student who wrote two opinion pieces for a school newspaper, one of which a “expressed unfavorable opinions about Latino immigrants” and the other of which “repeated numerous unflattering racial stereotypes in support of an argument against affirmative action.” The ACLU filed a brief defending the student’s free speech rights despite the fact that they are both pro-immigration and pro-affirmative action. That’s what true civil libertarians do, defend the expression of even those ideas that they find wrong or offensive.
But this makes me curious about something. Did the ACLU file any briefs in Harper v Poway, the 9th circuit case involving the student wearing a t-shirt saying “homosexuality is shameful”? Here is a statement from Volokh’s post:
“California law does not permit school districts to censor student speech simply to avoid controversy or because the speech is unpopular or even offensive,” said ACLU/SC staff attorney Christine P. Sun. “Instead of stifling debate over controversial topics, school officials should support and encourage students to consider ideas that are different from their own.”
If one is going to assert such a principle – and I fully support that principle – then it must also apply in Harper, right? If anyone can find out if the ACLU filed any briefs in that case and where they can be found, I would appreciate it. I will also note that in 2004, the ACLU sued a school in Missouri for prohibiting a student from wearing a pro-gay t-shirt. If they filed a brief in Harper, I certainly hope it was on behalf of the student.