[Update below] A Canadian Internet civil libertarian has named South Shore Regional School Board Superintendent Nancy Pynch-Worthylake “Authoritarian High School Superintendent of the Month” for placing student William Swinimer on five days suspension for wearing a shirt that read, “Life is wasted without Jesus.”
University of Waterloo computer science professor Jeffrey Shallit announced the tongue-in-cheek award on his Recursivity Blog, but his denunciation of Pynch-Worthylake’s overreaction was anything but tongue-in-cheek:
North American high schools are not places where free speech and criticism of authority are welcomed. Instead of teaching lessons about free speech, free expression, the Bill of Rights, and the Charter of Rights, principals and superintendents routinely impose arbitrary rules and punishments….
Swinimer’s t-shirt expresses a moronic and wrong sentiment, and he sounds like the typical evangelical jerk who can’t keep quiet about his own “good news.” But when he says, “I believe this is worth standing up for — it’s not just standing up for religious rights, it’s standing up for my rights as a Canadian citizen, for freedom of speech, freedom of religion,” he’s absolutely right.
Superintendent Pynch-Worthlake could have turned this into a teaching moment. She could explain that in a multicultural society there will be people who assert that their religion is the only valid one, and that’s the way life is. She could explain that the Charter guarantees “freedom of thought, opinion, and expression,” and even though she disagrees with Swinimer’s sentiment, she defends his right to express it in a non-disruptive way.
Instead, she took the authoritarian route. Shame on her.
[UPDATE] A reader who is not from the Annapolis Valley or Bridgewater writes:
It’s obvious Jeffrey Shallit does not live in the Annapolis Valley or Bridgewater, because if he did, he’d know that no matter how strongly you felt it, you’d never say anything like this: “Swinimer’s t-shirt expresses a moronic and wrong sentiment, and he sounds like the typical evangelical jerk who can’t keep quiet about his own ‘good news.'” Because the fall-out from evangelicals, of which there are many who attend Baptist, Pentecostal, and break-away Protestant churches in the Bible Belt of Nova Scotia, would not be worth it. Shallit, safe from the wrath of God in Waterloo.