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|Y!: ||#1 Posted on 28.4.04 1135.28 |
Reposted on: 28.4.11 1136.09
Originally posted by DrDirt from the "Enemy Combatants" thread
Between the "war on drugs" and terrorism, I fear greatly for our constitutional protections as individuals.
Secret Service confiscates anti-Bush drawings by 15-year-old at Prosser High (seattlepi.nwsource.com)
By D. PARVAZ AND KATHY GEORGE
SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER REPORTERS
A few political sketches took a 15-year-old Prosser boy from his art class to questioning by the Secret Service -- and thrust him into a debate over free speech.
On Friday, the boy was questioned by the Secret Service after his art teacher turned in sketches by the boy featuring President Bush. In one, Bush's head was on a stake. In another, he was dressed as the devil, firing off rockets. The caption on one sketch read, "End the War -- on errorism."
There were more sketches, including one of the Bill of Rights and the Constitution in flames. A family friend says the sketchbook has not been returned to the boy. His mother, who refused to comment yesterday, was given photocopies.
"Ridiculous and kind of embarrassing," is how Tom Smith describes the situation at Prosser High School, where he attends school with the 15-year-old.
"That was a constitutionally protected opinion, and I realize that schools do have to turn in kids that may be a threat, but he's not a threat," says Smith, 17, a junior at the Central Washington school. "He's friendly. I think he's like me; I try to be nice to everyone who's nice to me."
But Prosser police Chief Win Taylor says the boy and his sketches were seen as "a threat against the president of the United States. And we notified the Secret Service because that's their bailiwick."
He sees the situation as a clear-cut case.
"First of all, the disturbing part was the extreme violence depicted in the pictures," said Taylor, who has seen the drawings. "We assume that he deliberately took an action of his own free will, which he reasonably should have known was against the code of conduct."
When pressed as to whether he really thought the 15-year-old student had a plan to harm the president, Taylor said that as a child of the '60s, he understands dissent and protest. But times have changed.
"We've been in a different ballgame because police were attacked after what happened in Columbine," Taylor said. "Since then, we've all been under the gun with all these mandated policies for school security plans. ... Now for whatever reason, it's 'Oh, we want you to use discretion again.' We can't win."
Smith said he's spoken with the boy after he was questioned by the Secret Service and said he "didn't seem too freaked out, but (felt) like they're blowing this way out of proportion."
Are violent sketches enough to get students in trouble?
"Simply expressing controversial viewpoints in writing or in art shouldn't be enough for the student to face disciplinary action," said Doug Honig, spokesman for the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington. "Unless there's actual disruption in the educational process."
Prosser High School Principal Kevin Lusk and Superintendent Ray Tolcacher did not return calls for comment. The extent of the disciplinary action faced by the student hasn't been announced, although Smith said the boy had to attend Saturday school.
In the precedent-setting Supreme Court decision in the case of Tinker vs. Des Moines (School District) in 1969, the court decided that school administrators must be able to show "the existence of facts which might reasonably lead school officials to forecast substantial disruption" before taking disciplinary action against what a student expresses on school grounds. In that case, three students were suspended for wearing black armbands in protest against the U.S. government's actions in Vietnam.
Honig points to recent cases in which school administrators and students have had very different ideas about what should be protected under the First Amendment.
In February 2003, school officials at a Dearborn, Mich., high school ordered a 16-year-old student to either take off the shirt he was wearing (featuring the face of President Bush and the words "International Terrorist") or go home. The student, Bretton Barber, said the shirt expressed his objections to the war against Iraq and went home. The ACLU filed suit on his behalf and won.
And in 1998, James La Vine, a student in Blaine, found himself in trouble after Blaine High School administrators found the imagery in one of his poems too violent. Taken in conjunction with minor infractions on his record, La Vine was expelled, but was later allowed to return to school.
Simply being questioned by the Secret Service doesn't mean the student's legal rights were violated, Honig stresses. He couldn't confirm whether the boy's parents had contacted the ACLU, but said the organization is looking into the matter.
Wallace Shields, special agent in charge of the Secret Service field office in Seattle, said yesterday he couldn't comment specifically on the Prosser investigation. But Shields said the agency responds to all reports of perceived threats to the president.
"We investigate them all," he said, and may refer cases to federal prosecutors, local police or mental health authorities.
The agency also plays a role in preventing school violence -- advising school, police and other local officials on how to prevent attacks on students or staff members.
In 2002, after shootings at Columbine High School in Colorado and other schools, the Secret Service studied 37 incidents involving 41 students and found that the boys involved in the attacks usually told someone of their plans in advance. Also, they almost always had done something before the attack that worried an adult.
The 2002 study concluded that targeted school violence is preventable, and recommended how to recognize and react to possible threats.
Yesterday, Shields couldn't say whether the Prosser investigation stemmed from the agency's school protection mission or its primary mission of protecting the president.
U.S. Rep. Doc Hastings, the Republican who represents Prosser, declined to comment on the propriety of the Secret Service questioning a high school student about his art work. "He's not in a position to make a judgment on this," said his spokeswoman, Jessica Gleason.
Kirsten Anderson, owner of the Belltown art gallery Roq la Rue, is all too familiar with controversial art in this post-9/11 climate. Two years ago, Anderson's gallery featured a work by local artist Kurt Geissel. The piece featured a Bamiyan Buddha, like the ones destroyed by the Taliban in Afghanistan, carved into a Koran. It took weeks for the dust to settle from that piece.
Regarding the Prosser situation, Anderson says, "I think that's completely bogus and fascist. I think that everyone is ultra, ultra paranoid these days, and there may be good reasons for that, but there's so many more tangible threats to the president and the government.
"If they have the right to question a 15-year-old kid for a couple of drawings, then they can do anything. This whole thing is goofy and scary."
(edited by JayJayDean on 28.4.04 0936)
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