“Hilariously Unconstitutional”: Arizona’s Bill For G-Rated Education
That’s not something I thought I’d ever hear Greg Lukianoff say, as he’s a guy who takes the Constitution pretty seriously…as do I. Greg heads up FIRE, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, defending civil liberties on campus. He blogged at the HuffPo about a bill that goes wildly beyond the pale:
In what has to be the most hilariously unconstitutional piece of legislation that I’ve seen in quite some time, senators in the Arizona state legislature have introduced a bill that would require all educational institutions in the state — including state universities — to suspend or fire professors who say or do things that aren’t allowed on network TV. Yes, you read that right: at the same time the Supreme Court is poised to decide if FCC-imposed limits on “indecent” content in broadcast media are an anachronism from a bygone era, Arizona state legislators want to limit what college professors say and do to only what is fit for a Disney movie (excluding, of course, the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise. After all, those films are PG-13!).
But don’t take my word for it, here is the full text of the bill (SB 1467) as it currently stands:
15-108. Public classrooms; compliance with federal standards for media broadcasts concerning obscenity, indecency and profanity; violations; definition
A. If a person who provides classroom instruction in a public school engages in speech or conduct that would violate the standards adopted by the federal communications commission concerning obscenity, indecency and profanity if that speech or conduct were broadcast on television or radio:
1. For the first occurrence, the school shall suspend the person, at a minimum, for one week of employment, and the person shall not receive any compensation for the duration of the suspension. This paragraph does not prohibit a school after the first occurrence from suspending the person for a longer duration or terminating the employment of that person.
2. For the second occurrence, the school shall suspend the person, at a minimum, for two weeks of employment, and the person shall not receive any compensation for the duration of the suspension. This paragraph does not prohibit a school after the second occurrence from suspending the person for a longer duration or terminating the employment of that person.
3. For the third occurrence, the school shall terminate the employment of the person. This paragraph does not prohibit a school after the first or second occurrence from terminating the employment of that person.
B. For the purposes of this section, “public school” means a public preschool program, a public elementary school, a public junior high school, a public middle school, a public high school, a public vocational education program, a public community college or a public university in this state.
You catch all that? The bill doesn’t even require that the profanity be uttered in the classroom, it just generally says that if a professor or, for that matter, a K-12 teacher, engages in FCC-regulated conduct or speech at all, he or she can lose their job. Of course, even if this were limited strictly to classroom speech it would still be laughed out of court as unconstitutional on its face.
Irony abounds in this law, especially when you consider that it would require law professors to be suspended for discussing two of the most important Supreme Court cases regarding the First Amendment and free speech on campus. The first is the ever-famous case of Cohen v. California (1971), in which the Supreme Court ruled that a citizen could not be punished for wearing a jacket emblazoned with the slogan “Fuck the Draft.” Indeed, the Court rightly noted in its decision that “one man’s vulgarity is another’s lyric.”
…Legislators and, in many cases, campus bureaucrats need to know that real life and real education often includes “strong language and adult content.”