By John Klar
A Vermont school superintendent came down hard on students who allegedly chanted “Let’s Go Brandon!” at a December, 2021 high school basketball game. If they did not agree to counseling, accused students were banned from all sporting events.
This public high school endorses BLM, queer theory, and all things Far Left but prohibits T-shirts that say, “There are only two genders” and canceled a baseball team fundraiser because it dared employ Chick-fil-A products.
The Randolph Union High School (RUHS) administration’s argument is that the phrase “Let’s Go Brandon!” constitutes profanity. In an email to the community, Supt. Layne Millington (seen in school photo above) wrote:
“[T]onight’s final game was marred in the last minutes by members of our own student community chanting, “Let’s go Brandon,” a euphemism for “F— Joe Biden,” which in this case seemed to be directed at our own athletes. This is not about politics or free speech; folks are welcome to chant what they like at our games as long as it is civil and not disparaging. Please recognize that as administrators and staff who are required to create and maintain a positive environment for all students which supports learning across the totality of our programming, I have to say that what happened tonight was inappropriate. I am also saddened by the reaction of some of the adult spectators to the chant.”
Three school principals were recruited with Millington to bring students in for discipline. One 16-year-old student insisted that she had not participated in the verboten chant; she was disciplined on the allegations of unnamed students. The school claims that her accusers have a right to privacy that supersedes her right to confront them or hear evidence.
The school explained to her parents:
[T]he Student Handbook sums things up nicely though there are more specific passages later on:
1. Respect all people, their feelings, their possessions, and their right to an education.
2. Respect that the purpose of this school is to educate.
Any interaction or behavior that interferes with either of those expectations will result in corrective action.
Superintendent Millington has repeatedly invoked the school’s handbook to control speech of the students under his care. Others disagree, saying “Let’s Go Brandon!” is constitutionally protected political speech, not profanity. This was explained to Layne Millington and the school by legal counsel for this young girl, who quoted the U.S. Supreme Court in Tinker v. Des Moines: “First Amendment rights, applied in light of the special characteristics of the school environment, are available to teachers and students. It can hardly be argued that either students or teachers shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate.”
Noting that students were allowed to wear BLM and pro-Biden messaging while MAGA or pro-Trump messaging was prohibited, the student’s attorney stated: “To say this is astonishing is without exaggeration. This bears the indicia of an aggressive authoritarian regime where only approved opinions are allowed, and disapproved opinions are punished.”
As if to agree, legal counsel for the school responded curtly: “You and I disagree about what constitutes profanity.”
In the seminal case of Cohen v. California, an anti-war activist was arrested for wearing a jacket that said “F— the Draft!” in a public building. Justice Harlan observed (emphasis in original): “The ability of government, consonant with the Constitution, to shut off discourse solely to protect others from hearing it is, in other words, dependent upon a showing that substantial privacy interests are being invaded in an essentially intolerable manner. Any broader view of this authority would effectively empower a majority to silence dissidents simply as a matter of personal predilections.”
The words “Let’s Go” are not profane, despite the contention by the school’s legal counsel and bureaucrats.
This isn’t the first time ‘Let’s Go Brandon’ has been construed as profanity meriting school discipline. In November 2021, a Walden, VT school cook was fired in part for writing “Let’s Go Brandon’ on a school menu board. Like Millington, Walden school administrators maintained it was an expression of profanity.