By John Klar
A Vermont high school recently banned a young girl from sporting events for allegedly chanting “Let’s Go Brandon!” at a basketball game. The school claims the phrase is “profane” and may be prohibited under the student handbook’s command to “respect all people, their feelings, their possessions, and their right to an education.” Constitutional law says otherwise. Schools can prohibit foul language, but any child can see that this language is simply not foul.
Foul language is protected speech, especially if political. In Cohen v. California, the U.S. Supreme Court considered criminal charges against a Vietnam War protester who sported a jacket in the courthouse displaying “F— the Draft.” Noting that the First Amendment was “designed and intended to remove governmental restraints from the arena of public discussion,” Justice Harlan observed of the “F” word in Cohen:
[T]he principle contended for by the State seems inherently boundless. How is one to distinguish this from any other offensive word? Surely the State has no right to cleanse public debate to the point where it is grammatically palatable to the most squeamish among us. Yet no readily ascertainable general principle exists for stopping short of that result were we to affirm the judgment below. For, while the particular four-letter word being litigated here is perhaps more distasteful than most others of its genre, it is nevertheless often true that one man’s vulgarity is another’s lyric.
Vermont’s overzealous social justice bureaucrats have launched their reprogramming agenda in reckless disregard of basic constitutional liberties. This school has banned T-shirts proclaiming, “There are only two genders” — social “theory” is employed to subjugate objective biological science. If free speech were allowed to thrive, such bizarre ideological machinations would shrivel under the light of intellectual scrutiny.
The “Let’s Go Brandon!” slogan has gone viral due to the particularly cathartic role that even harsh language serves in spoken expression. As the Cohen Court explained:
[M]uch linguistic expression serves a dual communicative function: it conveys not only ideas capable of relatively precise, detached explication, but otherwise inexpressible emotions as well. In fact, words are often chosen as much for their emotive as their cognitive force. We cannot sanction the view that the Constitution, while solicitous of the cognitive content of individual speech, has little or no regard for that emotive function which, practically speaking, may often be the more important element of the overall message sought to be communicated.
Vermont’s abusive RUHS school recently canceled a baseball team fundraiser for selecting Chick-fil-A food, by imputing non-existent hate motives to the students. It has flown a BLM flag for years despite claiming it knew that this violated the First Amendment! The community has simmered in growing resentment, while any expressions of objection are pounced upon as proof of racist noncompliance. This is social justice “theory” in practice.
Vermont’s entire education system has embraced CRT and “social justice theory,” while blatantly lying about their existence. Children are being studied and conditioned by gamification and “social emotional learning,” encouraged in gender pronoun choice beginning in kindergarten, and offered prepubescent gender hormone therapies without parental consent. Like canaries in a social-justice coal mine, Vermont’s children are being emotionally and intellectually suffocated. Their constitutional protections are being dismantled — exactly as prescribed by this hate cult. This is a partisan affliction in derogation of fundamental human liberties.
In response to a letter from the “Let’s Go Brandon!” girl’s attorney, the school’s legal counsel retorted, “You and I disagree about what constitutes profanity.” Fortunately, the Constitution shields citizens from exactly this sort of government tomfoolery. The Cohen Court warned:
[W]e cannot indulge the facile assumption that one can forbid particular words without also running a substantial risk of suppressing ideas in the process. Indeed, governments might soon seize upon the censorship of particular words as a convenient guise for banning the expression of unpopular views. We have been able, as noted above, to discern little social benefit that might result from running the risk of opening the door to such grave results.
There is a Keystone Kops absurdity in this school’s discipline of non-profane profanity. The school rallied three principals and a superintendent to promptly sentence the pre-judged students, echoing a Kafkaesque trial. As Franz Kafka might quip, “it’s only because of their stupidity that they’re able to be so sure of themselves.”
The administrative prohibition of a popular phrase such as “Let’s Go Brandon!” in a rural Vermont school is reminiscent of George Orwell’s Animal Farm pigs, or his 1984 Doublespeak. Orwell warned in 1984: “Power is in tearing human minds to pieces and putting them together again in new shapes of your own choosing.”
Vermont’s schools are abusing language and violating the Constitution to do exactly that.
John Klar is an attorney and farmer residing in Brookfield. This commentary originally appeared at American Thinker.