3rd Circuit Says Student Has Right to Wear 'Redneck' T-shirt
Shannon P. Duffy
The Legal Intelligencer

School officials cannot invoke a racial harassment policy to prohibit a high school student from wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with 'redneck' jokes by comedian Jeff Foxworthy unless there is proof that the shirt caused disruptions, the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled.

In Sypniewski v. Warren Hills [N.J.] Regional Board of Education, the court stopped short of striking down the harassment policy, but found that school officials went too far when they banned speech or clothing that 'creates ill will or hatred.'

Third Circuit Judge Anthony J. Scirica found that the school district had valid reasons for creating the policy because there had been a series of racially divisive incidents sparked by white students who wore clothing with the Confederate flag.

'When there is a concrete basis -- ordinarily established by a history of disruption and interference with the legitimate rights of other students -- for concluding that certain expression presents a well-founded fear of disruption, a school should be free to address the issue by adopting a formal policy, so long as the policy narrowly targets the identified problems,' Scirica wrote.

But Scirica found that the policy went too far when it banned not only 'racially divisive' speech, but also speech that 'creates ill will.'

'When policies focus broadly on listeners' reactions, without providing a basis for limiting application to disruptive expression, they are likely to cover a substantial amount of protected speech. Here, the inclusion of the phrase 'creates ill will' causes just such a problem,' Scirica wrote.

Scirica found that Warren Hills, N.J., school officials 'made a good faith effort to respond to a serious disciplinary problem without unduly restricting students' expression.'

Nevertheless, he said, 'the application of the policy to the Foxworthy T-shirt appears to go too far. Question Who's Online | Find Members | Private Messages
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180 hits Rate me! Share Favorite | Flag 19 years ago by KikiPeepers

Do you think Jeff Foxworthy`s `redneck` jokes are racist?
3rd Circuit Says Student Has Right to Wear `Redneck` T-shirt

Shannon P. Duffy

The Legal Intelligencer

School officials cannot invoke a racial harassment policy to prohibit a high school student from wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with `redneck` jokes by comedian Jeff Foxworthy unless there is proof that the shirt caused disruptions, the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled.

In Sypniewski v. Warren Hills [N.J.] Regional Board of Education, the court stopped short of striking down the harassment policy, but found that school officials went too far when they banned speech or clothing that `creates ill will or hatred.`

Third Circuit Judge Anthony J. Scirica found that the school district had valid reasons for creating the policy because there had been a series of racially divisive incidents sparked by white students who wore clothing with the Confederate flag.

`When there is a concrete basis -- ordinarily established by a history of disruption and interference with the legitimate rights of other students -- for concluding that certain expression presents a well-founded fear of disruption, a school should be free to address the issue by adopting a formal policy, so long as the policy narrowly targets the identified problems,` Scirica wrote.

But Scirica found that the policy went too far when it banned not only `racially divisive` speech, but also speech that `creates ill will.`

`When policies focus broadly on listeners` reactions, without providing a basis for limiting application to disruptive expression, they are likely to cover a substantial amount of protected speech. Here, the inclusion of the phrase `creates ill will` causes just such a problem,` Scirica wrote.

Scirica found that Warren Hills, N.J., school officials `made a good faith effort to respond to a serious disciplinary problem without unduly restricting students` expression.`

Nevertheless, he said, `the application of the policy to the Foxworthy T-shirt appears to go too far.


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19 yrs ago, 6 mos ago - Tuesday 11/5/02 - 3:51:57 PM EST (GMT-5)
No matter how much they seem like it, rednecks are not another race.
19 yrs ago, 6 mos ago - Tuesday 11/5/02 - 3:53:49 PM EST (GMT-5)
i didn't even know they were human.
19 yrs ago, 6 mos ago - Tuesday 11/19/02 - 4:47:23 PM EST (GMT-5)
ALLLLL redneck jokes are funny...i didn'tthink they were a race anyways
19 yrs ago, 6 mos ago - Tuesday 11/19/02 - 8:58:06 PM EST (GMT-5)
I think redneck jokes are funny too. And I'm one of them. Us Rednecks are white, just like the rest of the white US citicens.
19 yrs ago, 6 mos ago - Tuesday 11/19/02 - 9:06:57 PM EST (GMT-5)
Redneck is a class of people, not a race.
19 yrs ago, 4 mos ago - Saturday 1/18/03 - 3:26:51 PM EST (GMT-5)
So are American jokes, Michigan jokes, white jokes of the non-redneck variety, and all the other jokes that make fun of people. As long as they aren't taken seriously. Frankly, I love hearing jokes that make fun of the groups I'm in.
19 yrs ago, 4 mos ago - Saturday 1/18/03 - 3:33:27 PM EST (GMT-5)
A redneck doesn't mean you are white effinbadass, it means you are a hick or from the south
19 yrs ago, 3 mos ago - Monday 2/10/03 - 11:20:08 PM EST (GMT-5)
redneck is a term which has been bastardized from it's original meaning, which was a person who worked largely outdoors, such as a farmer. now it's just bandied about by people as an insult. heh. p.duffy is the worst rapper ever.
17 yrs ago, 7 mos ago - Wednesday 10/27/04 - 8:11:58 AM EST (GMT-5)
of course not. foxworthy, and most of the people to whom the term could be applied, have adopted it with pride.
17 yrs ago, 7 mos ago - Wednesday 10/27/04 - 8:30:27 AM EST (GMT-5)
No. They're meant to be funny, and like uwg said, most people fit the description of a redneck have adopted the term with pride.
17 yrs ago, 7 mos ago - Wednesday 10/27/04 - 11:07:43 AM EST (GMT-5)
maybe.. but I think they're hilarious.
17 yrs ago, 7 mos ago - Wednesday 10/27/04 - 11:14:45 AM EST (GMT-5)
Pfft, these people need to stop being so uptight. I admit, the kid with the noose around his neck was a bit overboard, but redneck jokes are friggin hilarious.
15 yrs ago - Thursday 5/10/07 - 6:33:24 AM EST (GMT-5)
I think they're stupid.
15 yrs ago - Thursday 5/10/07 - 8:27:17 AM EST (GMT-5)
Foxworthy defined redneck as "a glorious absence of sophistication...I believe there's a little bit of Redneck in us all."

My sister got me "No Shoes...No Shirt...No Problem!" for Christmas my junior year in college. It cracks me up whenever I read it.

15 yrs ago - Thursday 5/10/07 - 9:45:24 AM EST (GMT-5)
i can't believe a court is overruling a school on this. Every school should just have a no captions on t-shirts rule or something
15 yrs ago - Thursday 5/10/07 - 9:48:07 AM EST (GMT-5)
Last I checked rednecks weren't another race. Besides, they appear to be ones who make fun of themselves the most anyway.



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