My argument is in favor for the defendant in the case between Guiles V. Marineau. After a student continuously wears a controversial and extremely detailed t-shirt received at an anti war rally, the school district and family of the student take their discrepancy to court. I found multiple sources pulled from sources such as, FindLaw’s United States Second Circuit case and opinions. (n.d.)., ProCon.org. (2017, November 15), Supreme Court Upholds Vermont Student’s Free Speech Rights. (n.d.). and What are the Legal Rights of Children? (n.d.). In the following, the reader will be introduced to the case, the final decision, and my assessment of the case. I have drawn a conclusion, that the School system was in the right in this case and properly handled the situation despite the provocative nature of Guiles.
Keywords: Supreme Court, Student rights, School V. student
GUILES V. MARINEAU (2007)
In the case of Guiles V. Marineau, I do not agree with the decision of the supreme court to not take the case, and I do not agree with the second circuits decision on the case. I believe the United States District Court for the District of Vermont made the right decision based on fairness between plaintiff and defendant, societies “age appropriate” guideline, and the rights, or lack of, on students.
Summary of the Court Case
Guiles, in 2004 became the plaintiff in the case against him regarding the enforced dress code policy by defendant Seth Marineau. The event occurred at Williamstown Middle High School in May of 2004. According to FindLaw’s United States Second Circuit case and opinions. (n.d.), the article of clothing in question was described as, “The front of the shirt, at the top, has large print that reads “George W. Bush,” below it is the text, “Chicken-Hawk-In-Chief.” ? Directly below these words is a large picture of the President’s face, wearing a helmet, superimposed on the body of a chicken. ? Surrounding the President are images of oil rigs and dollar symbols. To one side of the President, three lines of cocaine and a razor blade appear. ? In the “chicken wing” of the President nearest the cocaine, there is a straw. ? In the other “wing” the President is holding a martini glass with an olive in it. Directly below all these depictions is printed, “1st Chicken Hawk Wing,” and below that is text reading “World Domination Tour.”The back of the T-shirt has similar pictures and language, including the lines of cocaine and the martini glass. ? The representations on the back of the shirt are surrounded by smaller print accusing the President of being a “Crook,” “Cocaine Addict,” “AWOL, Draft Dodger,” and “Lying Drunk Driver.” ? The sleeves of the shirt each depict a military patch, one with a man drinking from a bottle, and the other with a chicken flanked by a bottle and three lines of cocaine with a razor.
The defended, Sam Marineau, determined that the t-shirt violated the WMHS dress code. The dress code read ” Any aspect of a person’s appearance, which constitutes a real hazard to the health and safety of self and others or is otherwise distracting, is unacceptable as an expression of personal taste. ? Example Clothing displaying alcohol, drugs, violence, obscenity, and racism is outside our responsibility and integrity guideline as a school community and is prohibited.” WMHS Student/Parent Handbook 2003-2004 at 13 (brackets in original). After consulting with Shoik, the superintendent of the Orange North Supervisory Union, which includes WMHS, Guiles was offered three choices, 1) turn the shirt inside-out; ?(2) tape over the images of the drugs and alcohol and the word “cocaine”; ?or (3) change shirts. Although, Guiles had worn this shirt multiple times, and when, according to FindLaw’s United States Second Circuit case and opinions. (n.d.). “the T-shirt raised the ire of one fellow student whose politics evidently were opposed to Guiles’s. This student complained to teachers who told her that the shirt was political speech and therefore protected.” Guiles father came in to speak with Marineau, who continued to defend his choice. Guiles went home with his father that day and returned the following day with the same shirt on, again receiving the same three choices regarding his shirt that Marineau deemed violated the school dress code. When arriving, he was given a discipline referral form and Guiles was sent home. again, that next day, Guiles returned wearing the shirt, with the “inappropriate” images covered with duct tape that had “censored” written on it.
The Supreme Court’s Decision
Three days into a bench trial, the school district won, after the United States District Court for the District of Vermont found that the schools censorship was valid and an appropriate decision that didn’t infringe on Guiles first amendment rights. Guiles and his parents appealed this decision and took the school district to the U.S second circuit court of appeals. Here, The plaintiff and his family won and included in the decision, the court also ordered that the discipline action he received would be removed from his record. This action still remains in his student record.
Next, the Williamstown School District appealed after loosing before the U.S Second Circuit Court of Appeals, but the supreme court did not agree to take the case right away. They wanted to await the outcome of their current case Morse v. Frederick, regarding “Bong Hits for Jesus”. After the decision was made that following Monday, the supreme Court decided not to review the case, and therefore the previous decision by the U.S Second Circuit to stand.
According to FindLaw’s United States Second Circuit case and opinions. (n.d.) “the ACLU of Vermont appealed the decision to the Second Circuit, which agreed with Guiles in August 2006. The three-judge appeals panel relied on the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1969 Tinker decision, arguing that “the pictures are an important part of the political message Guiles wished to convey, accentuating the anti-drug (and anti-Bush) message.” When Guiles took to stand, he argued that he was protected under the first amendment, freedom of speech. His shirt in question was acquired at an anti-war rally he attended.
Assessment of the Supreme Court’s Decision
After assessing the case, and reading the facts from both sides, and the overall situation, I do not agree with the decision of the supreme court to not take the case, and I do not agree with the second circuits decision on the case. I believe the United States District Court for the District of Vermont made the right decision based on fairness between plaintiff and defendant, societies “age appropriate” guideline, and the rights, or lack of, with students.
Guiles was only in 7th grade at the time, actively participating in anti-war, anti president, and provoking the drugs, and denotation of the president. Being in 7th grade, the student did not have full rights, “For example, children have a limited right to free speech. … However, schools may limit the child’s speech if they feel it could harm other students.”( What are the Legal Rights of Children? (n.d.). Therefore, for Guiles to argue that the school was infringing on his first amendment, I feel as if this was not correct. The school had every right, and even more power than that, that could induce a dress code that involved identical uniforms. For example, according to ProCon.org. 2017, “In Long Beach, CA, after two years of a district-wide K-8 mandatory uniform policy, reports of assault and battery in the district’s schools decreased by 34%, assault with a deadly weapon dropped by 50%, fighting incidents went down by 51%, sex offenses were cut by 74%, robbery dropped by 65%, possession of weapons (or weapon “look-alikes”) decreased by 52%, possession of drugs went down by 69%, and vandalism was lowered by 18%.” The students shirt in question had numerous amounts of potentially provoking, or exposure, to these elements shown to cause problems in schools, and infringed on the other students being exposed to these elements.
Personally, when I was in 7th grade, the least of my worries was anti-war rallies and promoting my political opinion. My fellow students were more interested on whose house had the coolest video games, or if we were all going to the ice rink (our local hang out spot) that Friday night. I find it inappropriate for a 7th grader to continuously wear this one given t-shirt that contained so many slang phrases and visual displays of drugs. How is cocaine relevant to anti-war and why must it be displayed?
I was sent home for minor policy breaks such as holes in my jeans, or my dress not being two inches below my knee. I think the way the student handled the controversy by continuing to show up to school wearing the shirt in question was immature and you can tell his intentions at this point had shifted from “displaying a political message”, to provoking authority and questioning that command. I do believe in the individual freedom of expression and not containing who someone is, but in this case, I believe the student was using his shirt to draw attention to himself, and when he got a rise out of power, his intentions shifted to provocation. And for this reason I believe the original standing in favor of the school system was correct and protected both the school and Guiles. The school had to think about the other students viewing and reacting to this shirt and its message, political, or not. Students showed concern and even voiced this concern to faculty according to What are the Legal Rights of Children? (n.d.). “the T-shirt raised the ire of one fellow student whose politics evidently were opposed to Guiles’s. This student complained to teachers who told her that the shirt was political speech and therefore protected.” Regarding the best interest for both students, the original standing by the United States District Court for the District of Vermont was the right choice. In regards to the Supreme Court, I believe if they would have opened the case, they would have seen the same things.
taking into account the facts of each side, the way the situation was handled including how the student returned to school knowing it was not acceptable, I believe the United States District Court for the District of Vermont made the right decision based on fairness between plaintiff and defendant, societies “age appropriate” guideline, and the rights, or lack of, on students.
The United States District Court for the District of Vermont took into account the fairness of both sides, and how a decision could impact the other. I viewed the school as in the right because they had more than just one Childs experience and environment to worry about, they had an entire district. Societies age appropriate guideline also shows that a 7th grader should be wearing such controversial things including the clear display of drugs, and curse words. And finally, students of Guiles age do not have full rights and protection under the constitution yet. Meaning, the school does have right to deem what is or what isn’t appropriate for students to wear on a daily basis around a mix of other students. And I wish the supreme court had more of a foot in this case to see if the outcome would have been different.