Blue In The Face

by Jeff Alexander

Those that fear change are the first ones to crackdown on anything that doesn't meet their standards. Would be censors claim any non-mainstream form of expression is nothing but a threat or a slap in the face to everything THEY feel is right. The Littleton, Colorado tragedy is the cash cow for would be censors to enforce their oppressive agendas upon America's youth, but this Littleton cash cow has been milked too many times!

Kent Mcnew, a student who attends Surry County High School in Virginia experienced the mass paranoia that followed the tragic events in Littleton. Mr. Mcnew was suspended April 28th for his dyed blue hair, under a new policy banning unusual hair colors. Restrictive policies such as this have been around for years, but sadly enough we have seen an alarming explosion in the implementation and enforcement of such policies since the Littleton tragedy.

Only because of the mass hysteria that followed Littleton would a policy as stupid as this get support. Censors on a power trip use young students to force feed their bullshit rhetoric upon the public and claim it's for the safety of the children, when all they really hope to accomplish is to satisfy their desire for greater power and control over society at the expense of the rights of the innocent. If Littleton never happened, it is very likely that a policy such as this would be laughed at by the majority of the community. But Littleton did happen and we are unfortunately seeing a tidal wave of oppressive policies trampling students rights as a result, with very little resistance being put up by parents in search of answers to their safety concerns. We at ROC feel that parents that are supportive of such school policies aimed at eliminating free expression are naively believing that these policies are passed with the safety of the students in mind when reality is that this national phenomenon is merely a case of would-be censors capitalizing on a tragedy and milking it for all its worth.

Are these actions of school officials that are looking out for the student body, or are these school officials that are jumping at the chance to shut down self-expression because they don't agree with it? We think the latter is the correct answer. We're seeing many similar cases across the country where school districts are citing Littleton to justify their actions. How much longer are we going to bang our heads against the wall looking for solutions that will only serve to increase the likelihood of another alienated student somewhere in the country snapping and acting out his/her frustrations in a violent manner? Schools teach their young students to respect and be tolerant of others, how hypocritical is it for school districts across America to strip their students of their First Amendment rights? Is that not the ultimate act of intolerance?

"The ACLU recognizes the right of Surry County to enforce rules and regulations in the name of safety, but we believe it is possible to make such policies without trampling the constitutional rights of students," said ACLU of Virginia executive director Kent Willis.

A hearing took place June 3rd at the Federal District Court in Richmond regarding the matter. Judge Robert E. Payne presided and ruled that Surry County must allow Kent Mcnew back to school and provide means for him to make up any work he missed as a result of the suspension. Judge Payne cited a 1972 Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals case, Massie v. Henry which aided in his decision. The case proved to be an important asset to freedom fighters because it prohibited a North Carolina high school from regulating hair styles of the students. Mcnew's case is certainly a victory for anyone who stands up for the First Amendment, though there are still countless students across America facing repercussions for self-expression. "In suspending Kent because of his hair, Surry County went too far. We are pleased the court recognized that," said ACLU director Willis.

We must congratulate Judge Payne for preserving the First Amendment, and Kent Mcnew for bringing attention to the unconstitutional actions of Surry County High School. We strongly urge all parents to stand up for your children when their rights are violated by oppressive school policies such as this. Don't allow your personal feelings against certain forms of expression allow you to turn a blind eye towards the blatant abuse of power taking place in the name of safety in our schools. Its fine for you to say that you don't want your child to have blue hair, for example, but its not fine for the government to say that children that choose to have blue hair cannot be allowed to receive an education. We will not stop until people realize that the First Amendment is nothing to spit upon, even if it makes us blue in the face from speaking up.

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