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SCHOOL DISORDER NOT COURT’S FAULT To the editor: I am writing a letter in response to Stuart Taylor Jr.’s Nov. 17, 2003, commentary “Lawless in Class” [Page 58]. Citing statements from Richard Arum’s book Judging School Discipline, Taylor is quoted as saying “liberal public school advocates must face the reality that liberal judicial decisions unique to the United States have made our schools uniquely disorderly.” He goes on to cite Tinker v. Des Moines School District (1969) and Goss v. Lopez (1975), two cases decided in the 1960s and 1970s, as examples of those decisions. What Taylor ignored were the Supreme Court decisions handed down during the 1980s and 1990s that were contrary to student rights. The landmark case of the 1980s was New Jersey v. T.L.O. (1985), a decision that held teachers and administrators could have a mere reasonable suspicion to lawfully search students. T.L.O. was later expanded by decisions in Vernonia School District v. Acton (1985) and Board of Education of Pottawatomie County v. Earls (2002), rulings that required students participating in all extracurricular activities to take urine drug tests without a reasonable suspicion any of these students had used drugs. These decisions along with Bethel School District No. 43 v. Fraser (1986) (a ruling that limited the Tinker decision) demonstrate that the Supreme Court had limited its so-called liberal decisions of the 1960s and 1970s. Taylor also mentioned the student hearing process “grinds down school officials and many teachers” and “administrators take the path of least resistance by condoning disruptive conduct rather than risking legal battles.” I find it mind-boggling that school officials feel this way. In this post-Columbine world, the law and the courts are on the side of teachers and administrators. If a student brings a lawsuit, chances are good that unless the conduct by the teacher or administrator was reckless or wanton, the courts are going to side with the school district, end of discussion. Taylor likes to blame the decay of the “moral authority” of schools on the U.S. Supreme Court and litigious students. That is a narrow conclusion to a very complex problem. Our schools have faltered because of the demise of the two-parent family, the lack of funding to educate our children, and the lack of respect owed to public school teachers by ignorant parents and so-called school choice advocates. If Mr. Taylor wants to help work on these issues, I would be more than happy to help him. Michael L. Shields Harrisburg, Pa. IN BCRA CASE, FREE SPEECH WAS SET ASIDE To the editor: Stuart Taylor Jr. cautiously deemed the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act’s bans on soft money donations to the major political parties and on business corporation and labor union broadcast ads near federal election days to be “probably right,” but candidly admitted to a “foreboding about how much further the five more liberal justices may be prepared to go down the road to censorship” ["More Rules for Democracy," Dec. 15, 2003, Page 60]. We all should be gravely concerned, for they already went too far. Thomas Jefferson wrote: “On every question of construction, carry ourselves back to the time when the Constitution was adopted, recollect the spirit manifested in the debates, and instead of trying what meaning may be squeezed out of the text, or invented against it, conform to the probable one in which it passed.” Chief Justice John Marshall agreed: “[T]he intention of the instrument must prevail” and “be collected from its words. . . . [I]ts words are to be understood in that sense in which they are generally used by those for whom the instrument was intended,” and “its provisions are neither to be restricted into insignificance, nor extended to objects not comprehended in them nor contemplated by its framers.” But, in McConnell v. Federal Election Commission, five justices shamelessly disregarded their solemn responsibility to uphold the First Amendment in favor of effectively amending it as they saw fit, to the detriment of the people, under the guise of interpreting it. They effectively set aside the First Amendment’s freedom of speech provision, (but not yet its freedom of the press provision), in order to uphold fundamentally flawed provisions of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act. The First Amendment is supposed to protect both freedom of speech and of the press. If one is more important than the other, then note that freedom of speech comes first. Publication was not to be the exclusive right of the press. Every person was to have the right to publish. It is absurd to suggest that it was intended that either the people or the press could be barred (or restricted) from publishing within so many days of Election Day. Instead of celebrating its increased power in America’s political process resulting from the deplorable decision, the press should be concerned that its right may be lost next, as Justice Clarence Thomas suggests, even though Stuart Taylor Jr. does not see the threat to the freedom of the press as imminent. Lest there be any doubt about what the words “Congress shall make no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech” means, James Madison’s original formulation dispels it: “The people shall not be deprived or abridged of their right to speak, to write, or to publish their sentiments.” “Abridged” meant diminished, and freedom of speech included the right to “publish,” that is, make known to the general public, as well as to speak and to write. The Founders fully appreciated the importance of money. In The Federalist No. 30, Alexander Hamilton put it plainly: “Money is, with propriety, considered as the vital principle of the body politic; as that which sustains its life and motion and enables it to perform its most essential functions.” No restrictions on spending money in order to make one’s views known were contemplated. As Stuart Taylor Jr. rightly implied, there is something fundamentally wrong with permitting “gigantic media corporations” to “spend as much as they please promoting their favored candidates” while prohibiting other corporations or labor unions from “spend[ing] a dime” and restricting American citizens from spending their money how they see fit. Michael J. Gaynor Greenlawn, N.Y.

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