Judges rule in favor of student in free speech case

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(Host) A federal appeals court has affirmed the free speech rights of a Williamstown High School Student who was barred from wearing a Tee shirt with images critical of President Bush.

The unanimous ruling by a three-judge panel of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a lower court decision.

The case started in May 2004 when student Zach Guiles was suspended for wearing a T-shirt that called President Bush “chicken hawk in chief.” The shirt had pictures that implied Bush once had substance abuse problems.

The student was later allowed back in school. But officials required him to cover the pictures of drug paraphernalia on the shirt, saying the images violated the school’s anti-drug policy.

The Vermont chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union sued, saying that the student’s rights to free speech were protected under the First Amendment of the Constitution.

After a trial in Vermont, a federal judge said the words on the shirt were protected speech, but that the pictures were not.

But the appeals court disagreed. The court said the school’s censorship of the pictures had violated the student’s First Amendment rights.

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