The Pro-Youth Pages
© 2009, Pro-Youth Pages


Obama's Supreme Court pick opposed youth rights, free speech

President Obama's first pick for Supreme Court Justice, Sonia Sotomayor, has a troubling history with youth rights. In the case of Doninger vs. Niehoff, Schwartz, Sotomayor undercut the First Amendment because it supported a youth activist.

Connecticut citizen Avery Doninger was a member of the Lewis Mills High School Student Council. When she saw school administrators jerking around the students about whether a promised "jamfest" would actually occur, Doninger organized an email campaign, urging other frustrated students to call superintendent Paula Schwartz and urge her to resolve the problem. Schwartz got flooded with calls, and Schwartz complained to the school's principal, Karissa Niehoff. Rather than apologize to the students for driving them to this extreme, Niehoff declared she would punish the students by scrapping the jamfest.

Doninger did not take that lying down. She continued to fight for the students who had elected her. On a blog, Doninger posted a message describing the behavior of her douchebag administrators and urging more phone calls. Those calls came in, and the administrators finally caved, allowing the jamfest. But when they learned about the blog entry referring to them as "douchebags," they banned Doninger from seeking re-election in the Student Council; and when she won the election anyway (with enough supporters writing in her name to put her on top), she was banned from serving. The student body was denied its chosen representation, and Doninger was denied recognition as the student leader she clearly was.

Of course this wound up in court. The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees the right to free speech and to petition the government for redress of grievances. Lewis Mills High School being a public school, the principal and the superintendent were both agents of our government, the same government that requires students such as Doninger to attend.

The First Amendment was written for the very purpose of allowing the governed to complain to administrators and to complain to one another about administrators, and to organize just the sort of peaceful political action Doninger organized so successfully. By violating the First Amendment, these administrators were betraying everything our country is supposed to stand for.

So when the lawsuit went before Judge Sonia Sotomayor, how did Sotomayor rule? For the school.

More alarming are the reasons given for dismissing the First Amendment. The opinion signed by Sotomayor declared that one purpose of our public schools is to teach students "proper respect for authority."

The purpose is supposed to be to prepare students for citizenship in a free society. That would include eagerly questioning our leaders and asking them to serve us better. Sotomayor apparently believes schools are there to train American citizens to shut up and do as they're told.

The ruling further declared the term "douchebag" constitutes "vulgar and ... potentially incendiary language," so much so that it trumps the First Amendment. This begs the question, How old is Sotomayor?

School administrators claimed in court that they never really threatened to cancel the jamfest, that Doninger lied in her post. Sotomayor therefore concluded that "school operations might well [have been] disrupted further by the need to correct misinformation as a consequence of Avery's post." In other words, Avery Doninger was disrupting the school by creating a situation where administrators might actually feel compelled to explain themselves!

(Throughout the ruling, Ms. Doninger is referred to by her first name. No court in America would refer to any adult so informally. This is one more example of the disrespect endured by youth.)

The ruling continues: "Avery's conduct posed a substantial risk that LMHS administrators and teachers would be further diverted from their core educational responsibilities by the need to dissipate misguided anger or confusion over Jamfest's purported cancellation." In other words, there was a danger that the administrators might listen to the students and redress their grievances. The horror!

This shameful ruling reveals Sotomayor to be mismatched with the values embodied in our Bill of Rights, the values of free expression and the right to petition our government for redress of grievances. President Obama should not reward Sotomayor with a lifetime appointment to a position where she will be entrusted with the role of enforcing that same Bill of Rights.

Full text of ruling at

Read about other Supreme Court Justices.

See also:

Judges aren't the only ones who improperly think they are on a first-name basis with youth. Read an examination of how this double-standard is used in our schools: Naming Your Teacher, Naming Yourself.