A Federal Court has ruled that the MySpace postings of two school age children are protected under First Amendment rights. (Fox News). An 8th grade honor student posted a picture of her principle with a fake name and called him a pedophile. A high school senior called his principal a drug user. But – both are protected speech.
I have never been a big fan of extending the same rights to children as we do adults – and this is yet another great example. To have a “right” also indicates that one has the basic understanding of the responsibility of that right, and the means to protect it. The converse of right is responsibility. Those who are not able to exercise neither understanding nor responsibility must be placed under the protection of others – the unborn, the mentally challenged, and children – and it is on their protectorates that the responsibility of their charges lay. Yet, this Federal court has ruled that these children have both the right to malign a person of authority – and the immunity of being free from the repercussions of expressing themselves in such hateful ways.
The Founding Fathers never intended for the rights that have been encoded into our constitution to be a free-for-all platform to spread hate. They surely never intended for these ideas – bought and paid for with the lives of patriots – to be used by children to belittle principals and teachers. We have these rights because God has placed them in our hearts. Yet , just as God holds us responsible for the things we do – so too did the writers of our Constitution understand that these great rights entail great responsibility. These children – because they are children both mentally and emotionally – cannot begin to understand the responsibility of “Freedom of Speech.”
No child has the freedom to make a mockery of a Principal, Teacher, or any other figure of authority. Adults do have that right – but also have the burden of bearing the responsibility of taking their freedom too far. When will we learn that children – as children – “speak as a child, think as a child, and act in childish ways.” When they are ready to give up childish ways, then they are ready to take on the mantle of rights.