The first hour of the event was provided attendees to mingle and find out about people running for local office as well as visit tables set up supporting five of the Presidential candidates. At least three Board of Education candidates were there, including Joan Johanson of Clinton, David A. Stevenson of Bethel and Matt Cooper of Essex. Matt’s wife is due any moment and I didn’t get a chance to speak with him. However, I did get a brief chance to speak with both Joan and David.
Neither had been following the Avery Doninger case closely, but they had both heard of it and knew the general issues. As such they didn’t have any specific comments about the case other than generally upholding freedom of speech, particularly when the speech takes place away from school grounds.
In other discussions during this period, one educator commented about how school superintendents around the state spend inordinate amounts of time speaking with their lawyers and another person noted that schools, particular at the high school view any contact from parents as disruptive. Perhaps if they viewed contact with parents as an important part of their job they would need to spend less taxpayer money on lawyers.
It is not uncommon for certain Connecticut politicians to boast of being bipartisan. Yet too often they use this as a justification for ill thought out policies. Because of this, bipartisanism has a pretty bad name around these parts and I’ve been on mailing lists where people are encouraged not to link to conservatives.
Yet recently, because of my interest in the Avery Doninger case, I’ve found myself in strange company. You see, there are a lot of good conservatives who are fierce defenders of our constitutional rights.
Recently, Greg from Rhymes with Right and I exchanged emails and links. Greg lists himself as a ‘Proud member of The Conservative Blog Network’ and has a ‘Blogs for Bush Blogroll’ and a ‘GOP Bloggers Blogroll’. In an email, he describes himself as a GOP precinct chair who is married to a Democrat. While we may differ on parties and politicians that we support, we both have a commitment to using our freedom of speech to help our country be what we believe it should be.
Judy Aron of Consent Of The Governed left a comment on Greg’s blog saying, “Schools regulating what you can say and do off campus or on the Internet? Well, looks to me as another really good reason to homeschool.” She quotes Ronald Reagan on her website and includes the John Birch Society in her list of “Other Websites of Interest”. There may be a lot of things we disagree on, but her comment, “As far as I am concerned we are in this together fighting abuse of authority,” sums up the sort of bipartisanship that I am glad to be part of.
Perhaps the most interesting connection I’ve through this, however is with Leslie Graves, a libertarian from Wisconsin. Her blog, State Sunshine and Open Records has provided great coverage of the Doninger case and has named Andy Thibault of Cool Justice the Sunshine Troublemaker of the Week for his work in uncovering information related to the Doninger case. She also has WikiFOIA, a valuable site to help “people understand and use the Freedom of Information Act at the state and local level”.
This morning, I visited her website and found that one of the next candidates for Troublemaker of the Week is Charlie Grapski. Charlie is an old friend of mine, who has been battling corruption in Alachua for several years now. For more about Charlie, read this post.
All of this takes me back to the Doninger case. In one email, Lauren Doninger wrote, "I realize that the affront to Avery's civil liberties was miniscule". Compared to the affront to Charlie’s civil liberties, it is miniscule. I responded to Lauren with a quote that ties it all together, and why I am glad to link to conservatives and libertarians that are “fighting abuse of authority”.
"Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance."
- Robert F. Kennedy
This evening, there is a “back to school” fundraiser for the West Hartford, CT Democratic Board of Education candidates.
When is the last time you helped with a Board of Education campaign, or attended a Board of Education meeting in your area? Unless you are very involved politically, or live in an area where the Board of Education is arguing whether science can be taught in school, the odds are, you haven’t paid a lot of attention to what is going on in your Board of Education.
Yet Board of Education Elections can matter a lot. On the simplest level it is a great way for people to get involved with their communities and with politics. People often start off on Boards of Education before moving on to higher offices.
Today, I set up a Facebook group, Team Avery to get more people informed about Avery’s case, and hopefully to get more people to contribute to the Defend Free Speech site. If you’re on Facebook, please join the group and get your friends to join.
One person wrote,
Agh. This is infuriating. Yet another example of how not to win hearts and minds. Take away Free Speech to protect it -- how Orwellian.
I'm teaching my grade school kids tonight how to spell the word "douchebag", and the appropriate usage, along with how to tell someone to "piss off". And then I'm going to give them a writing assignment using those words. You go, Avery.
On WTIC, a local talk radio station, Lauren Doninger, Avery’s mother, spoke with Colin McEnroe. I missed the beginning of it, but I did hear her talk about the importance of the case, pointing out that “Rights get eroded slowly at the local level.” Colin ended the call noting, “That’s Lauren Doninger, she’s a good mom.”
Rick Green at The Hartford Courant writes a good analysis of the Avery Doninger case entitled, Ruling On Blog Rant Troubling.
These days, the vulgarities are found in IMs, e-mails, voice mails and blog postings that bounce around cyberspace, a realm that extends far beyond the classroom.
And now it may well be the government's business what your kid writes in some out-of-the-way blog, even if it's done in your home.
Scott H. Greenfeld, Esq. has a long, well thought out post about the case at Simple Justice: Student Speech Slides Further Downhill. It is hard to pick out the best quote from his entry, there are so many of them. Please, stop by and read his whole post. For a quote that gives you a good flavor of it:
Avery used the weapons that all true Americans should use, the power of thought and ideas as disseminated through word and deed. We don't have to like her choice of words, but we can't dismiss them because we would have preferred other words.
Norm Pattis at Crime and Federalism touches on the broader issues in Blogger Beware.
In it, he writes,
In the meantime, the Doninger case raises interesting questions. If a lawyer, for example, criticizes a judge on a blog page, and even calls for his resignation, as was done here recently, is the lawyer subject to discipline?
I will continue to cover this as the case continues and I would encourage everyone to do what they can to help cover the costs of defending freedom of speech. If you have a blog, please consider adding the fundraising widget.