Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor helped crush the dreams of a teenage girl last year by joining in a ruling that let a school punish a student for calling its superintendent a "douche bag" on her blog.
Avery Doninger (pictured with her mother and lawyer), a student at Lewis Mills High School in Burlington, Conn., called her school superintendent a "douche bag" on her personal blog in 2007 because she thought—erroneously—that the school was canceling its Battle of the Bands. When the school got wind of the insult, it barred her from being re-elected as class secretary as punishment. Doninger and her mother sued, claiming—correctly—that teenagers are allowed to write whatever they damned-well please on their personal blogs when they're not at school.
When the case came to Sotomayor's court on appeal, the blogger-hating judge joined with the majority in ruling that Doninger's comment had carried a "foreseeable risk of substantial disruption" and that she wasn't entitled to an injunction barring the school from punishing her.
"The continual expansion of the authority of school officials over student speech teaches a foul lesson to these future citizens," said Jonathan Turley, a law professor at George Washington University. "I would prefer some obnoxious speech [rather] than teaching students that they must please government officials if they want special benefits or opportunities."
Doninger plans to appeal to the Supreme Court.
While we obviously support Doninger's First Amendment right to say what she wants to on LiveJournal, we do admit to being torn on this one: "Douche bag" is a grievously overemployed epithet, and sanctions on its use can't be all bad. Maybe Doninger will take a little time to come up with a more creative insult next time. The internet needs them!