Free Speech … For Some At DeKalb Schools … Part II

Martha Dalton at WABE released a story today, How Does The First Amendment Apply To Public Schools

Dalton is reporting that Russell Brooks has a son at Chamblee Charter High School and received a call recently that his son was going to be suspended for four days for wearing a sticker calling for the firing of the principal.

The school district’s statement is

“The DeKalb County School District supports the constitutional right of its students to freedom of speech, but it also requires that such exercises do not disrupt or degrade the learning environment. When that standard is violated, the district reviews each transgression on its own merits and uses the DCSD Student Code of Conduct as its guide in taking corrective action.

“Three students at Chamblee Charter High School were found to have violated that standard and were held accountable. The violations were considered disruptions of the school environment per the DCSD Student Code of Conduct.”

The administration has since reduced the punishment to a one-day in-school suspension.

Student Code of Conduct 2018 – 2019

Stan Jester
DeKalb County
Board Of Education

I advocate for the First Amendment across the board. I’m concerned once again the freedom of students to express themselves is not being equally defended. It would seem that the school district only defends speech they agree with and calls all other speech disruptive.

Recall Protesting Cheerleaders at DHS. The school district sanctioned a Black Lives Matter rally at Dunwoody High School where the students held signs and yelled “Hey Hey – Ho Ho – Racist white people have got to go!”

At Cedar Grove High School the girls softball team took a knee before their playoff game.

[Updated 10/17] As noted by the Pravda commentor, “Let us not forget the 2nd amendment walkout/rally thing that happened. That certainly wasn’t quiet. It was definitely disruptive. Students were not punished for walking out of class in mass.”

However, my son can’t wear a Fake News Network shirt and Russell Brooks’ son can wear a sticker calling for the principal to be fired. There seems to be a double standard here.

What are your thoughts?

Related Articles

Protesting Cheerleaders at DHS – The Whole Story
December 17, 2017 – A black cheerleader was auto cropped out of a cheerleader squad picture when the photo was auto formatted for printing by an online system. Some students sprung into action blaming the cheerleader squad for an intentional action demonstrating racial bias. A protest for this non-event is planned for tomorrow morning and sanctioned by the school district.


DeKalb Schools – Free Speech….For Some?
November 10, 2017 – DeKalb Schools might have a consistency problem with the First Amendment.
We received a phone call from the principal of the middle school this morning informing us that Jaxon was not allowed to wear an FNN-Fake News Network shirt.

DeKalb Schools
Students Kneel During National Anthem

October 13, 2017 – The girls at Cedar Grove High School in DeKalb County took a knee before their playoff game. “Basically right now, the flag doesn’t’ mean what it’s supposed to, to me.” a student said.

43 responses to “Free Speech … For Some At DeKalb Schools … Part II

  1. concerned citizen

    Can anyone inform us as to the fate of Chamblee’s football coach who was disciplined for the football jerseys?

  2. Paula Caldarella

    Is this free speech or continued harassment of the Principal?

  3. Good question. The school district seems to sanction the harassment of white students.

  4. Patty Williams

    I cannot speak about the other activities, but the FNN shirt propagates a mistruth about news organizations such as CNN, NBC, etc. I think the first event–the BLACK Lives Matter incident was also disruptive and should have been stopped, but taking a knee–that was a quiet protest.

  5. Do you agree with this punishment for these students Stan?

  6. Bill Armstrong

    Stan, do you honestly think this is cool and should be allowed?
    It’s not super extreme, but I think I’d put this more under P.35 of the Student Handbook:
    “8. Rude/Disrespectful Behavior and/or Refusal to Carry Out Instructions”
    A . Rude/Disrespectful Behavior
    Students will not be discourteous or use inappropriate language, behavior or gestures, including vulgar/profane language, towards teachers, administrators . . .”

    Yeah, it might be discourteous at worst, but what if a few students wore “Fire Mrs. Smith” stickers at school, where Mrs. Smith is a teacher, especially in her classroom? Cool? Any teachers reading this put up with that?

  7. Recently CNN was caught on camera saying they ran bogus news stories for the ratings. The employees who said that were fired. There is an argument to be made about many news organizations running fake and/or misleading news stories.

  8. I agree with the intent of the policy. I’m concerned about the equal application of the policy.

  9. Bill Armstrong

    Concerned. At the moment I can say for sure that the week following the Dunwoody game when Coach Mattair was allowed back, he stepped down as head coach, he felt his presence was too much a distraction. He remains on as a teacher, my football-playing son has him for weight training. A couple of other assistants left then as well. Since then the team has been coached by the remaining assistants. If you’ve seen the scores it’s been tough going since, but it already was.

  10. Equal application of policy is precisely what is lacking. My son’s class was given an assignment after the holidays last year to write about their favorite person so far in 2018. She then turned to my blond haired, blue eyed boy and said, “Don’t write about Donald Trump.” That assignment went from freedom of speech, to say what I tell you to, in no time. For a memour assignment, he was free to choose a leader in history to research. Although Ronald Reagan was his top pick, he went with MLK because he didn’t want to look racist. Neal Boortz said it best years ago, public schools are the first form of child abuse out there. Sadly, this is just going to get worse.

  11. Bill Armstrong

    Stan. You could also make the argument that various news organizations are very selective on what they run. Some more than others. I just refreshed my news apps on my phone. The BBC has the Saudi case as #2 after the Crimea shooting. CNN & the NYT have it at the top. The Fox News App doesn’t have it among the top 5 stories (Wed. at 3PM) But they do have the big story of “Liberal comic” George Lopez getting into an altercation at Hooters. Not sure how they’ll cover the story of Saudis torturing, killing & cutting up the Wash. Post reporter during the 8-11 slots, but I’m pretty sure they can’t avoid it entirely. Some people might consider it a kinda big story. But maybe it’s fake news. Remember it could be rogues.

  12. It’s funny to see liberals argue against free speech. Ever notice how one man’s quiet protest is another man’s disruption. The left sure is prickly about the term “fake news”. Guess it’s a trigger.

  13. Dekalb Inside Out

    DeKalb County School District is a microcosm of the state of politics in America today. Shouting at white students as they go to school or shouting at Republicans in restaurants is speech and is protected. Saying fake News, fire Braaten, all lives matter, etc … is apparently a disruption. The left’s tactic is to conflate speech they don’t like with violence. We will not let the First Amendment die under the jackboots of this school district.

  14. Bill Armstrong

    Pravda & DIO. Please inform me – what about “Fire Braaten” has anything to do about liberal/conservative? It seems that some of Stan’s examples might bring that into play, amongst themselves.

    But on this alone, a sticker advocating firing a principal, worn by a student in her school, explain to me the political component. How is that sticker “conservative?” How is seeing it as a disruption “liberal?”

    If you were a teacher, perhaps you are, or maybe others on this blog, how about the hypothetical I gave – a kid wearing a sticker calling for your firing, in your classroom. Cool? How would politics come into play there?

    I’m a Chamblee parent. I wasn’t aware that the anti-Braaten people were conservative. Nor her defenders liberal. Might be news to many in both camps. How about taking politics out of this, it really isn’t part of it to me, is the sticker a problem? I’ll be clear – to me it is. Not because I’m liberal, but because it is disrespectful and disruptive in my opinion. Not a huge deal, the 1 day ISS seems about right.


  15. I don’t find the sticker any more disrespectful than kneeling for the National Anthem.

  16. Bill, 3 out of 4 of the incidents Stan brought up involved political philosophies associated with left/right politics. The sticker issue isn’t a particular left/right issue as I see it. But… The district can certainly be seen as an institution managed by a left leaning majority. Speech the left leaning majority doesn’t like is always a “disruption”. Speech the left leaning majority agrees with is a “quiet protest”. If the student’s speech isn’t something supported by the left leaning majority, the student gets punished. Let us not forget the 2nd amendment walkout/rally thing that happened. That certainly wasn’t quiet. It was definitely disruptive. Students were not punished for walking out of class in mass. There is a pattern of discrimination in how “speech” is classified in DeKalb. The evidence points to an unequal treatment and response to speech representing views not shared by the majority left leaning district.

  17. Bill Armstrong

    Pravda. But on this you seem to be agreeing that there is absolutely no political liberal vs. conservative component here in anyway.

    Stan it seems to me you are using the incident to rehash your previous issues with what you considered inconsistent application of the policy. Regardless of anyone’s position on those cases – I don’t see how this sticker deal really adds anything to the discussion. I would hope & expect any school to respond accordingly. Public or private. Can you imagine this at Marist or St. Pius?

    Oh – I will add this. Generally under the Constitution & case law political speech & religious expression are the most protected forms of speech. As well they should be.

    This sticker?

  18. Bill, I’m not trying to get in an argument with you. Some of the issues Stan pointed out are right/left issues. Most are right/left issues. The evidence is clear on how the district has handled right/left speech issues. I hope we can agree on that. The sticker issue isn’t purely a right/left issue. I stated that. It is part of the continued habit of the district to discriminate against students based on speech. If the district agrees with your speech philosophically, then there is no problem and no sanction. If the district disagrees with your speech, there is sanction. That’s the point. Speech should not have government sanction based on institutional bias for or against the speech. That is the consistent issue. I’m trying to discuss this issue.
    I did not perceive Stan’s post as being a “rehash” of any previous issue. I understood his post to be a discussion about the nature of speech and the district’s response to it. The district determined that some speech is “quiet protest” and is allowable. The district determined that some speech is “disruptive” and sanctions children for it. The district has a habit of making a distinction that favors left speech versus right speech and, in the case of the sticker, favors district leadership over a student opinion quietly expressed. I think we can all agree that a sticker is not as disruptive as a full school rally.
    The school district is on a slippery slope with how it applies its policy. If a sticker on one student is disruptive and demands a punishment, but a student walk out to oppose the 2nd amendment of the US Constitution is legitimate speech that is allowed without repercussions, we have a problem. We may be supporting a majority at the cost of the minority. That is why we are a republic and not a direct democracy. Minority groups have rights. They are protected by The Constitution. The sticker may be unpopular and against the district administration’s stand but, given The Bill of Rights, it should have been tolerated and not punished.

    The sticker? Yeah. The student has every right to wear it. The student should have every expectation that he would not be sanctioned for wearing it.

  19. DSW2Contributor

    DCSD has distributed large circular “I (heart) Dekalb Schools” stickers, as pictured on this page:
    I wonder how many of those stickers were passed out at CCHS by the CCHS Principal and other staff?

    I also wonder what DCSD might do if CCHS students started wearing “I (heart) Dekalb Schools but (flame) Bratten” T-shirts to school. The artwork is there for the download….

  20. Curious white teachers

    Where are white students being harassed?

  21. Bill Armstrong

    I’ll try again. A sticker saying “Fire Mrs. Smith” a teacher. Worn in her class by a student. Ok?

    I’d like it for a sticker supporter to answer. Or maybe a teacher.

  22. I wonder what would happen if students wore stickers that said “New Leadership @ CCHS.”

    Is it just the directness of “Fire Braaten” that got the kid into trouble?

    I applaud the students for being brave enough to speak out against incredibly poor leadership. They and the teachers are the ones most affected by Dr. Green’s decision to ignore incredibly strong Parent and Teacher comments in the annual survey describing the toxic environment, favoritism, and poor planning and communication that the principal has brought to CCHS.

    I think this DCSD/CCHS response goes along with the new Volunteer and Visitor policy that DCSD proposed. It gave the Superintendent the freedom to prohibit anyone, for any reason, from volunteering or visiting schools. Thank heavens that the public spoke up and exposed the weaknesses of the proposed policy.

    Just another way of reducing free speech in our public schools.

  23. DSW2Contributor

    Bill A., I do NOT have a problem with a child wearing a “Fire Mrs Smith” sticker to Mrs Smith’s classroom. There are far too many teachers in DCSD classrooms who should have been fired for bad behavior but have been left in the classroom. DCSD is so desperate for teachers that the palace will hire anyone with a pulse; see the AJC article “Hiring practices in spotlight amid teachers’ troubles”:
    Most incidents NEVER make the news, but the AJC did report on the Peachtree MS teacher who remained in the classroom for nearly two months after he assaulted two students:

    Also see the AJC report on the “ineligible for re-employment” teacher who came back as a substitute:

    Channel-2 on the Tucker MS paraprofessional who broke a child’s arm:

    AJC on the two Oakview ES pre-K teachers who zip-tied 4-year olds:–law/dekalb-pre-teachers-resign-allegedly-zip-tied-students-hands/awfIT5Z4I27z62fUsF3fyN/

  24. Bill,

    I don’t think you can compare a “fire ___ teacher” sticker to a “fire___ student.” Students don’t work with the principal daily or regularly as they do with teachers. In Dekalb’s big high schools, most principals don’t know most of the students. I’m not aware of any principal teaching a class, so I’m not sure how this sticker disrupted the learning environment.

    I think a student or a group of students wearing a sticker like that in class could be uncomfortable for me and some students. It could be disruptive if it disrupts my thought pattern, distracts students. However, noise in the hall, unnecessary announcements, last minute meetings, poorly behaved students, etc.. also disrupt class or instruction.

    I’d probably use the sticker as a teaching opportunity. Students could learn about the qualifications and evaluations of teachers and administrators in Dekalb County Schools and in Georgia. Students could also learn about employment contracts and right- to -work states. Students might even learn about public education funding and the salaries of school district employees.

    I’m more bothered by the fact that Dekalb’s high school students have little to no say in how their schools are run.

  25. Bill Armstrong

    DSW2 & rigor. Thanks for your answers – you make legitimate points. I was looking for something not based on politics – just student Conduct Rules & these facts. I have a problem with the sticker but wasn’t outraged.

    Related but not the same – I think many would agree that the dress code is inconsistent in enforcement – especially for girls – both ways – some say too strict, others too lenient. But that’s another topic.

  26. FNN shirt- nope. Not on a field trip I schedule. Disrespectful to the host. Don’t like CNN? Stay home.
    Fire Braaten stickers- nope. Not going to let the kids get personal like that. Perhaps a black ribbon, but no calling out teachers/admin, no matter how deserving.
    Anthem issues and BLM- maybe. Bigger issues here, involving broader concerns.
    Stan saying the school district seems to sanction the harassment of white students- nope. One reason I can’t vote for Stan again, despite how much in appreciate his work, especially on this blog.

  27. So …. First Amendment applies unless the speech is disrespectful and not left wing … thank you for sharing. Harassment of white students – Let’s hold a BLM rally in your front yard with people yelling at you “Racist white people have got to go” … and see if you or your kids feel intimidated. Just a thought.

  28. Proud Teacher

    You have a problem with a sign that says, “racist white people have to go”? Huh. I have a problem with racist white people.

  29. I have a problem with all racists … not just the white ones.

  30. Stan, I could not agree more.

  31. Bill Armstrong

    OK Stan, you threw it out there, so I’ll respond “I have a problem with all racists … not just the white ones.” Based on the definition of racism I’ve been taught since I could read & write, and still listed in today’s respected dictionaries, I think racism is not used properly beyond white people in this context.

    “Prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one’s own race is superior.”

    “A belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race.”

    When it comes to Western culture & elsewhere wherever white people have gone (colonized) as a rule there are only white racists. Sure, people of color can certainly be prejudiced and bigoted, and act on those beliefs. But when it comes to believing that a specific race is “superior” to all others, and thus gives license to treat other “inferior” races as lesser humans, throughout most of the course of human history, certainly in the West, that’s essentially a “white thing.”

  32. DSW2Contributor

    Rather than argue about racism and freedom of speech, I would rather discuss Bratten’s application of the DCSD Code of Student Conduct. (To read it, click on the link that Stan posted above.)

    Bratten decided the stickers were a Level-4 Prohibited Behavior.

    We know that because Martha Dalton’s article, paragraph 4, says Mr. Brooks was notified that his son was being suspended for 4-days. A four-day suspension is a Level-4 Consequence according to the top of page 18 of the Code of Conduct, specifically the line “Disciplinary Options may include: Targeted Behavioral Contract. Consequence: Out-of-School Suspension for 1-5 days.”

    Bratten was wrong and had to be corrected by the Palace.

    We know that since paragraph 11 of the article says “The school reduced the punishment to a one-day in-school suspension.” Page 17 of the Code of Conduct says that is a Level-3, consequence according to the line “Disciplinary Options may include: In-School Suspension for 1-3 days with Instructional Module.” We can also assume that it was the Palace that reduced the punishment since Principals do not overrule themselves!

    So the sticker kids are right: a high school Principal that cannot correctly follow the DCSD Code of Conduct does deserve to be fired.

  33. Stan, I am certain you have no racial prejudices. I am also certain that Bill is right. Life is not the same for African Americans and white Americans. That’s why I have a hard time equating minor school discipline issues like your son’s t-shirt (please, let it go) and the Fire Braaten stickers (never should have escalated to OSS) to the much more serious issues raised by the BLM and related groups. Your son can wear the shirt anywhere but on a field trip sponsored by the school to CNN. The kids can wear their Fire Braaten stickers or anything else they want away from school. Their reality allows them the luxury to worry about these things. But reality for Black Americans is radically different, and that difference should not be ignored or belittled.

  34. Educator, if these kids can’t peacefully wear these things then the school district isn’t consistent with their application of the first amendment. They shout freedom of speech when kids want to be disruptive for a cause they believe in, but they shout disruption when kids peacefully protest something they don’t like.

    I will fight for any Black American that has been wronged. Show me the instance and I’m there.

  35. Stan, the fact you have to be “shown the instance” is a problem within itself.

  36. DSW2Contributor makes a great point.

    The CCHS Principal was unable to correctly implement the DCSD Code of Conduct with respect to this situation. Her decision, to escalate to a higher level than appropriate, had to be changed in order to comply with the DCSD Code of Conduct and ensure that the student’s rights were respected.

    This must be OK with Dr. Green, as he is giving her yet another chance to “improve.”

    This principal repeatedly has been heavy-handed with CCHS teachers and students who are accused of some sort of violation. What other disciplinary actions, against teachers and students, are being handled in this same heavy-handed style? Folks treated this way often aren’t as brave to speak up as this student and parent were, especially teachers who now work in fear of losing their job over some dubious infraction.

    Why should we think this is good for CCHS? Why does Dr. Green think this is a good idea? Why does the BOE think this is a good idea?

  37. EyesWideShut, racism is terrible, but you can’t say “institutional racism” or “you should know where the racism is”. That doesn’t help us fight it. You have to show me the racist or where somebody is being wronged so we can fight it together.

  38. I think this whole discussion about racism versus prejudice versus bigotry versus stupidity is missing the mark. The point is the consistent way left versus right speech is interpreted. If they were consistent, we wouldn’t be having this discussion.

  39. Cult of Reason

    I don’t think it can be argued that teachers in DCSD encourage political activism and disruptions in their classes through class walkouts.

    The message they are sending is:
    We are proud of our students who challenge authority! As long as they don’t protest our authority.

  40. High school halftime show included racially insensitive term

    Where were all the adults at Brookwood that did not see this before hand?

  41. DSW2Contributor

    “A lawsuit filed Nov.13 in the U.S. Northern District Court of Georgia by the family of a student names DeKalb County School District Superintendent Dr. R. Stephen Green, Chamblee Charter High School (CCHS) Principal Rebecca Braaten and Chamblee Charter High School Assistant Principal Clifton Spears as defendants is seeking to protect the First Amendment rights of students at the school.”

    CBS-46 is also covering the story, but being TV people, they can’t tell the difference between principal and principle.

  42. Student files lawsuit against DeKalb County School District over alleged free speech violation

    A local student and his family say they are filing a lawsuit seeking to protect the First Amendment rights of students after a Chamblee Charter High School freshman was suspended last month.

    “The reason given for his suspension was a Rule 12 School Disturbance. When I asked how the sticker caused a school disturbance, the response was that an administrator and school resource officer had to spend half of the day tracking down students who possessed the stickers, retrieve the stickers, and punish them,” said Russell Brooks, father of the student.

  43. DSW2Contributor

    “Braaten will become an administrator on special assignment for the Curriculum and Instruction and Accountability divisions on Dec. 17, according to a statement provided to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. ”
    A major reason why DCSD continues to fail is because we do not have a curriculum.

    I hope and pray that dumping a failed administrator into a failing department will bring attention to how badly the curriculum department has failed everyone!