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Body Paint, The First Amendment, and Student Speech

When two girls in Bradenton, Florida painted their bodies to attend a high school football game in a show of school spirit, they didn’t expect that their body paint would be the latest blood spilled in the culture wars.

The girls were actually dressed quite modestly — sporting cargo shorts and bikini tops in the hot Florida night, they covered more flesh than many supermarket patrons in Flori-duh. Nevertheless, a shrill erophobic idiot decided that the girls had to leave:

Margi Nanney, the spokeswoman for the Manatee County School district, said, “People complained saying at a distance it looked like the girls didn’t have any clothes on. An overwhelming amount of people said their outfits were highly suggestive and offensive.” (source)

Of course, no fat hairy guys with body paint were ejected from the game.

I’m going to go ahead and say that Ms. Nanney is full of shit. “An overwhelming amount of people”? I find it funny that with all the press coverage this event has garnered, not one reporter has turned over a rock and found one of the “complainers.” My guess is that one single uptight school administrator decided to impose his or her own erophobia on these modestly-clad girls who were doing nothing more than expressing their school spirit — and doing so with the full protection of the First Amendment.

Aha! you say, but Morse v. Frederick, (the Bong Hits For Jesus case) says that there is no right to free speech in schools! Not true.

In a fractured and results-oriented decision, only one Justice, the eminently unqualified and mentally underpowered Clarence Thomas, held that there were no First Amendment rights in schools. Only Scalia signed on to Roberts’ majority opinion in that case. Nevertheless, there are the “solid three” who would say that the Bradenton High school official acted properly.

Stevens, Souter, and Ginzburg dissented. More importantly, Alito and Kennedy seemed to suggest that the school had skated right up to the line of permissible censorship, but could go no further. (see earlier post here)

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