An interesting news report out of Wolfeboro, New Hampshire tells a tale of ignorance on the part of both parties.
A federal judge has sided with education officials who suspended a high school student after he wore a patch depicting a crossed-out swastika. The court says officials at Kingswood Regional High School did not violate Paul Hendrickson’s free speech rights when they asked him to remove the patch. Hendrickson was suspended last year after he refused to remove the patch. He says the crossed-out swastika was intended to express a message of tolerance. Superintendent John Robertson says the decision was always about student safety, not free speech.
Both Hendrickson’s assertion that the patch he wore bore a symbol of tolerance and the federal judge’s siding with school officials’ citing safety as the primary reason for suspending Hendrickson are wrong. Safety was an issue only because the pursuit of knowledge was put on the back burner; hell, it was knocked off the stove completely. Neither party took the time to find out what the symbol means. Had either of them done so, perhaps Hendrickson wouldn’t have incorrectly justified his wearing of the patch, he wouldn’t have been suspended, and school officials would’ve taken the opportunity to expand their own horizons as well as that of their students.
The truly alarming issue here is that grown people — educators of our youth and a federal judge — sent the message to the youth in their charge and the population in general that not only is free speech randomly applied (it’s okay for some), half-knowledge is a perfectly valid tool in a decision-making process. What a great impromptu history and civics project this could’ve been, but no. Instead, the preferred course of action by both school officials and the judge who sided with them was to err on the side of ignorance. No one bothered to tell the minor student Hendrickson that the symbol on his patch was a message of intolerance, not tolerance – presumably because no one else knew either.[ADBLOCKHERE]Hendrickson’s right to free speech, as a minor, is subjective. The patch he wore that resulted in his suspension, is not. Wolfeboro school officials and the federal judge who ruled in the case confused Hendrickson’s patch with the outright display of the swastika.
The symbol in question is popular among many youth. It is marketed openly and legally here in Germany. Displayed alongside pins, stickers, and t-shirts bearing the same and similar messages, the meaning of the symbol is Gegen Nazis. In English this means Against Nazis. Conversely, displaying the Hakenkreuz (swastika) or any Nazi symbol is illegal in Germany except for educational purposes. Additionally, vendors found to be selling any Nazi symbol and/or memorabilia on German soil — even aboard United States military installations in Germany — are subject to confiscation of their merchandise and can be punished under the German criminal code, Strafgesetzbuch.
Curiously, Nazi symbols are openly displayed and both Nazi symbols and memorabilia are available for purchase with constitutional protection in the United States – the same country where Hendrickson lives and was suspended from school.
Admittedly, the swastika can be seen from a fair distance, regardless of its size, and often cringed upon at first sighting – red slash or not. The knowledgeable person’s second glance of any Gegen Nazis symbol reveals a message of zero tolerance – a favorite kind of tolerance, especially among Americans.
Apparently there is now a zero-tolerance for knowledge as well.