(June, 1998) Following the Columbine massacre, life at Jennifer Boccia’s Dallas high school became even worse. She and about 10-15 other students fought back by wearing black armbands for one week to protest her school’s long history of violating student rights and to memorialize the victims of Columbine.
On Thursday of that week, just one day from the conclusion of their silent demonstration, her principal announced that all students wearing armbands would be suspended from school. Jennifer, and only about two other protestors, remained undaunted and completed their weeklong demonstration by wearing armbands to school the next day.
All three protestors were immediately punished with either In-School Suspensions or sent home. Jennifer got ISS.
The next Monday, Jennifer appealed the suspension by meeting with her school’s principal. At the meeting, she gave him a letter from her father, who supports her actions, and also a copy of the 1969 Tinker vs. Des Moines Supreme Court decision, in which the court ruled that the armbands were protected speech. The principal accepted her documents, sent her to class, but would not remove the suspension from her record.
Jennifer then called the media. Much to the dismay of her principal, she appeared on many of the local TV stations and in local newspapers. The Dallas Morning News even interviewed the some of the original protestors and their families who were involved in the 1969 court decision.
“I applaud her. She should take it all the way. We live in the USA, not a dictatorship,” said Ms. Roth, now 45 and one of the 1969 protestors.
Her father, 74, said “They are telling her [Jennifer], ‘You don’t count’,” He also added that Jennifer is more like students of the 60s than those of the 90s. “It was a different time then. Lots of people were protesting. Jennifer is out there by herself,” he said.
Her principal did offer to clear her school record if she refused to talk to the press, admitted that her school was right to suspend her, promised to stop protesting, and promised to obey school officials in the future. Jennifer turned down their gracious offer and continued to wear her armband until the conclusion of the school year.
We spoke to Jennifer two days ago and she informed us that if she cannot clear her record with administrative action, the ACLU will represent her in court. She wants nothing less than a clear record, an apology and an assurance that the district will honor the Constitution.
Jennifer is an inspiration to all students robbed of their freedom of expression by government principals who refuse to obey the law. Without Libertarian Rockstars like Jennifer, we wouldn’t have any rights. Our Founding Fathers wrote the Constitution to establish individual rights but they left it up to Jennifer and everyone of us to defend those rights.
Contact Jennifer Boccia at Frazzled%40mindless.com.
June 1, 1999
Message from Jennifer: I should let you know that my dad got a call from the principal today- he won’t actually tell us what he had decided about removing this from my record- he won’t talk to us about it at all, in fact. Any further communication has to be directed to the school’s lawyers. (this is looking more and more like it is going to go to trial….)
I looked at the site…..Wow! I love it, and I’m disappointed I haven’t stumbled across it before this *grin* I’ve considered myself a libertarian for about 2 years now (not registered or dues paying, because, well, I can’t vote and have no job, but both of those situations will be rectified in the near future) and it’s really nice to see other people out there who are trying to make a difference and interject some sanity into the government. Keep it up!!!
Love, Light, and Laughter