Mona Charen

It isn't that the adults here have no standards. Are we in any doubt about what would happen to a kid who wore a T-shirt that said "Girls can't do math"? It's not that these people are impossible to offend, it's that the wrong things offend them.

Earlier this month, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued a decision upholding the First Amendment rights of a teenager who had worn a "Chicken Hawk in Chief" T-shirt to a Burlington, Vt., middle school. The shirt also implied that George W. Bush was an alcoholic and drug abuser. School officials -- this was Vermont, after all -- instructed the boy to tape over the drug and alcohol images, turn it inside out or cease wearing the shirt. The boy -- this is America, after all -- sued, with the help of the American Civil Liberties Union. The Appeals Court held that the school went too far. So now teachers and administrators -- at least in the 2nd Circuit -- will be even less likely to invoke their authority to discipline the messages emblazoned on immature chests.

I know, I know. If parents were doing their jobs, none of this would be a problem. The trashy clothes would hang unsold on the racks, or failing that, would be stopped at the front door before junior or little miss left the house. But parents are abdicating massively. So the only hope is that courts and schools will reassert standards. They can do it in the name of educational environment; they can do it in the name of feminism if that makes them feel better -- but these kids desperately need higher standards of comportment.

Mona Charen

Mona Charen is a syndicated columnist, political analyst and author of Do-Gooders: How Liberals Hurt Those They Claim to Help .
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