“Fostering young minds means that sometimes, disagreeable ideas will be presented.”
According to Grant Berardo—a junior at Wall Township High School—his pro-Trump shirt was blacked out in his yearbook photo, even though it was still visible in the proofs and on his school ID. Berardo wore his “Trump-Make America Great Again” t-shirt for the pictures. Two other students with pro-Trump sentiments were also allegedly censored, including another Trump shirt and a quote from President Trump that was scrubbed from the yearbook.
The school Superintendent, Cheryl Dyer, has given attention to the matter and stated in a letter to parents that the incident is being investigated as an “allegation of censorship and possible violation of First Amendment rights.” She continued to state that, “There is nothing in our student dress code that would prevent a student from expressing his or her political views and support for a candidate.” As we all know, President Trump is no longer a candidate. Clearly, action was taken in efforts to censor students from exercising their rights to freedom of speech.
While the United States has seen censorship affect colleges across the country, high school is a place that needs to remain neutral for students of all beliefs and backgrounds to communicate their opinions. Fostering young minds means that sometimes, disagreeable ideas will be presented. Educational institutions shouldn’t be stifling the learning process that allows young people to think freely and make their voices heard. I’m not 100% certain how yearbook committees run these days, but when I was in high school, they were supervised by teachers. Adults looked over content and approved what could be published and what could not.
Making students feel wrong for holding certain political beliefs can have damaging effects. The same place that is supposed to be teaching them about freedom of speech and inalienable rights has successfully taught them that it only applies to certain instances. It’s important that students in the United States learn about how the government operates, and begin forming their own opinions about politics.
While some learn at home, formal education should be teaching from a neutral standpoint. I recall my government and civics classes in high school and how the teacher never once made his politics known. Ideas and debates were presented, as students were encouraged to review material and consider every avenue of approach.
Targeting individuals who support the President of the United States is unacceptable. Regardless of whether or not people agree with him, he’s currently our president. Schools have embraced LGBT students and their rights and promote pride, which has become important for their community in regards to instilling acceptance in students at an early age. Those celebrations were nonexistent when I was in school, as members of the LGBT community were still largely ostracized.
Politics has turned into the new struggle for acceptance for those who support President Trump in a society dominated with anti-Trump headlines and rhetoric. The United States needs to come together collectively and support everyone’s right to freedom of speech. Places of education are appropriate arenas to express thoughts and ideas that fall in line with topics that are taught in school.