Students Unjustly Punished for Raising Sign Critical of Coffee County Football Team

Jaiden Aquino, Assistant Editor

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After the Red Raiders’ blowout defeat to Oakland, one pair of CCCHS seniors raised a sign stating that “Coffee County Sucks” before quickly leaving the stands. Soon afterwards, these students were placed on social probation as punishment for the display, but whether this punishment was justified or not is debatable.

While some might dispute the school’s reaction in defense of free speech, first amendment rights are ambiguous for students as far as when it concerns the possible obstruction of the school’s educational mission. In order for a school to rightfully punish a student for speech, the administration must reasonably predict substantial disruption in the school environment caused by the display. This was established in Tinker v. Des Moines when the Supreme Court ruled in favor of students wearing black armbands in protest of the Vietnam War since it did not disrupt the school environment or educational mission.

So did the raising of this sign pose to cause such disruption?

Many impassioned student fans and players witnessed the bold expression of opinion while freshly disheartened by defeat as the sign was displayed at the end of a one-sided victory from Oakland, so discomfort from others and disapproval of the students’ actions are expected. However, it is unreasonable to expect significant disruptions during school hours solely because an unpopular opinion was voiced. Any mature student would take the students’ position with a grain of salt, and this is clear given that no substantial disruption has been caused at school a week later from the incident.

This is because the act was simply an immature exhibition of the students’ discontent with the poor results of the football team this season. The controversial take was executed lazily, and it is clear that they do not empathize with the team’s effort. The CCCHS student body is mature enough to control its emotions when it comes to such an insignificant, weak criticism.

Therefore, any conclusion that the raising of the sign was likely to cause disruptions in the school environment is unreasonable, and a rightful opinion was presented and silenced for no greater reason than the evasion of the unavoidable discomfort caused by differing viewpoints. The punishment the students’ face is unjustified.