Boards of Education Not Excepted
by Gene Johns – 5-21-12

Today, I attended a meeting of the Lake County Florida School Board. Why? Last week the school board, without announcing their intention to vote on a mandatory school uniform policy, voted to implement a policy to restrict the color of clothing (solid colors only) a student may wear when attending a public school in Lake County. It is still to be seen if this will be done as a uniform requirement or as a dress code requirement.
In the past, some principals have evaded the uniform issue by placing the color restriction in their dress code policy. Nice try, but either way the school board or a local school does not have the authority to arbitrarily restrict the color or patterns of colors (stripes, plaids or any other design) including words or pictures, of clothing students may wear to a public school.
As I was waiting for my turn to speak to the school board, I noticed on the wall to the right there were three beautiful paintings depicting famous scenes about the American Revolution. Mounted on the wall to my left were copies of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. In front of me and facing in my direction sat the members of the Lake County School Board.
I found it ironic that setting between those two walls honoring our American heritage, a group of individuals, collectively known as the Lake County School Board, have made it known of their intention to totally disregard the very ideas and rights their patriotic display represents. Have they no shame? Either out of ignorance or contempt they will impose their misguided will over the rights of citizens (students are citizens too) and, no doubt, pat themselves on the back for doing so.
Before the meeting started, school board members recited the Pledge of Allegiance which states their allegiance to the Republic for which it stands. Those words mean nothing to the school board. Why do they even bother to recite the Pledge of Allegiance when they ignore our Constitution which provides for the rights of our citizens (students) and places limitations on government (public schools are government schools)?  Their callous disregard for the rights of students appalls me!
As I spoke to the school board, I knew that they had already made up their mind. I was more or less speaking to closed misdirected minds. Yet, I had to speak my mind and put them on notice that I will not allow them to trample over the rights of American citizens. While their intentions may be commendable, seeking to improve the learning ability and safety of students, their action is based on the mythical merits of a school uniform without regard for the students’ constitutional rights.
Perhaps they need to be reminded what U.S Supreme Court Justice Abe Fortas said, “In our system, state-operated schools may not be enclaves of totalitarianism. School officials do not possess absolute authority over their students. Students in school as well as out of school are ‘persons’ under our Constitution.” Justice Fortas also said, “The Fourteenth Amendment, as now applied to the States, protects the citizen against the State itself and all of its creatures – Boards of Education not excepted.”
My position is that this is more than a debate about colors or uniforms. It is about America. Once again, Justice Fortas said it best when he stated, “That they [Boards of Education] are educating the young for citizenship is reason for scrupulous protection of Constitutional freedoms of the individual, if we are not to strangle the free mind at its source and teach youth to discount important principles of our government as mere platitudes.” I stand and fight on the important principles our American heritage has given us for which the Lake County School Board needs to take note!