Bong Hits 4 Jesus Granted Cert
The case involves an appeal by a high school principal and the school board in Juneau, Alaska, supported by the National School Boards Association and various anti-substance abuse groups. The case tests whether it violates the First Amendment for school officials to bar students from displaying messages promoting the use of illegal substances at school-sponsored activities and whether school officials have immunity to damages lawsuits under civil rights law for disciplining a student for displaying a banner with a slang reference to marijuana.I love the explanations of "bong" and "bong hits" that SCOTUS's Lyle Denniston adds. They have a Principal Skinner sort of vibe to them.
The student, Joseph Frederick, at the time a senior at Juneau-Douglas High School, was suspended for ten days after holding up a banner at a school-sponsored rally; the banner read "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" -- "bong" is a slang word for the paraphernalia used to smoke marijuana, and "bong hits" is teen slang for smoking pot.
The case has received a lot of attention for a few reasons. First, it's a pretty interesting First Amendment-civil rights issue. The Ninth Circuit sided with the student, saying that the school board violated the student's First Amendment rights by suspending him. Second, the phrase "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" just sounds hilariously stupid. It's going to stick in your head long after you first read it. And third, Ken Starr is heavily involved in this case on the side of the school district. Yes, that Ken Starr. I'm guessing that many people only know Starr from his Clinton chasing days. Before that, Starr was a federal judge on the DC Circuit Court of Appeals and Solicitor General under Bush 41. He's no stranger to the Supreme Court. It will be interesting to see him in action again. Hopefully all that time in the sun as dean of Pepperdine's law school hasn't made him too rusty.