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South Anti-War explores speech rights

By Alex Gershanov
Published: March 2009

The South Anti-War club (SAW) met with Principal Brian Salzer to assert their right for freedom of speech after the removal of their fliers on March 4, which advertised a trip to the Pentagon to protest U.S. aid to Israel and the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. The club discovered that their fliers had been taken down by the end of that day by students who were given permission to do so by a housemaster.

SAW member junior Aron Milberg scheduled a meeting with Goodwin Housemaster Charles Myette to determine the reason. Myette saw the content as the issue.

According to SAW member and senior Madeline Burrows, Myette then advised the club to discuss the situation with Salzer.

“We found the situation to be very odd, and to be a violation of freedom of speech, Burrows said.

When Burrows met with Salzer the following Monday, Salzer explained he saw the problem as the phrase near the end of the text, “End the blockade of Gaza and U.S. Aid to Israel! Salzer was concerned that Jewish students would be offended by the message and advised the club to reword the phrase to sound less critical. Burrows responded by saying that the fliers did not criticize Jews or Judaism.

SAW advisor Jamie Rinaldi explained that the fliers were not anti-Semitic nor critical of Zionism or the Jewish state. Criticism was directed at the Israeli government and their actions.
“I have a firm belief that we have every right to criticize our government and foreign governments, Rinaldi said. “If I was to criticize America, it doesn’t make me Anti-American.
Jewish Student Union member junior Michelle Kaufman, who has strong ties to Israel, nevertheless found the fliers offensive.

“If they’re advocating for anti-war, it’s not fair that they’re saying they’re just against Israel because they’re not saying anything against Palestine, Kaufman said.

After Burrow’s meeting with Salzer, SAW contacted the Student Press Law Center (SPLC) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). SPLC lawyer Adam Goldsmith confirmed that the administration could be violating Massachusetts State Law Chapter 71, Section 82, which states that students have the unabridged right to freedom of expression unless that right causes disorder in the school.

Rinaldi agreed, believing “students [at South] have the ability to hear different opinions and come up with their own.

“If there was a group that used posters to spread hate, that is wrong and we need to do everything to stop that, but the expression of a political idea is something different, he said.
Following the consultation, a group of 15 members of SAW and the Philosophy club, who were discussing the situation as well, revisited Salzer’s office to defend their case. After considering the group’s presentation of Goldsmith’s information and consulting with the school attorney, Salzer agreed with the club that the posters should be hung.

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