Friday, April 14, 2006

COM: Poetry, Words and Students

Here's another reason i believe the judicial branch to be one of the last vestiges of sanity in this deteriorating country of ours:

Student Can Recite Poem With Profanity
Judge Says New York Ninth-Grader Can Recite Poem With Profanity at Competition
By SANDRA CHEREB, The Associated Press


RENO, Nev. - A federal judge gave a ninth-grader permission Thursday to recite a poem at a state competition that his school objected to, claiming it contained profanity.

The words "hell" and "damn" in W.H. Auden's "The More Loving One," do not constitute offensive language that could disrupt the school's educational priorities, said U.S. District Judge Brian Sandoval.

He issued a temporary restraining order sought by Jacob Behymer-Smith, 14, after school administrators at the Coral Academy of Science told him he could not use the poem in future competitions.

The teen intends to recite it April 22 during Poetry Out Loud, a contest sponsored by the National Endowment of the Arts and the Poetry Foundation.

In granting the injunction, Sandoval said there was "a total absence of any evidence" that the school's prohibition was legal under the U.S. Constitution and that the teen likely would be able to prove his First Amendment rights were being violated.

Academy attorney John Ohlson said Sandoval's ruling was not unexpected. He had argued the issue was not about free speech, but the schools' ability to set educational standards.

Behymer-Smith selected his poem from an anthology of preapproved works by contest sponsors.

A day after he recited the poem at a district contest April 5, academy human resources dean Steven West reprimanded his English teacher and others for the performance. West then told the teen to select another poem because the Auden work contained profanity, according to court documents.

In a hearing Wednesday, the teen told the judge he's practiced the poem twice a day for two months, and that forcing him to choose another would be unfair.

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