Bill H.92, introduced on 01/20/21 by Rep. Brian Smith of Derby and sponsored by Rep. Lynn Batchelor of Derby, Rep. Patrick Brennan of Colchester, Rep. Rodney Graham of Williamstown, Rep. Robert Helm of Fair Haven, Rep. Mark Higley of Lowell, Rep. Marcia Martell of Waterford, and Rep. Arthur Peterson of Clarendon would prohibit the flying of flags other than the U.S. and Vermont state flags on public school property in the State of Vermont in contravention of the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States.
This is a transparent attempt to curtail discussion of systemic racism, homophobia and transphobia as inconvenient distractions. US society is in the midst of a reckoning with white supremacy – the overarching ideology supporting bigotry – including the before mentioned ‘phobias.’ In order to move forward as a society we must have discussions regarding these issues and schools are the appropriate places for these discussions.
Speech in the US is enshrined as a right under the First Amendment. The seminal case that describes our current conversation on speech is Ohio vs. Brandenburg which even permits incendiary speech as long as it does not incite imminent violence. However, Brandenburg is moot on the issue of what constitutes ‘imminent violence’.
The International Criminal Court discussed Brandenburg in it’s prosecution of the Radio Broadcasters who incited the genocide in Rwanda, concluding that although the effect was not immediate, it was imminent, and therefore the broadcasters were guilty of promoting genocide. It is clear that there is a parallel between the radio broadcasters of Rwanda and the many fascist demagogues operating on the internet.
It is no accident that the United States is not signatory to the ICC despite its participation in the formation of the court.