Good news, schoolchildren of America: Getting suspended is now a viable ticket to cinematic immortality.
Provided you earn your suspension in a suitably outlandish fashion, that is. And fight it on First Amendment grounds in front of the Supreme Court. Do all those things, and you could find yourself in the position of Joseph Frederick, the Alaskan high school student who took his battle for, um, freedom of expression all the way to the highest court in the land. From Variety:
Frederick already had a contentious relationship with the school principal when he got suspended for 10 days for displaying a “Bong Hits 4 Jesus” message on a 14-foot sign outside the school. The principal felt the banner promoted drug use. The case made national headlines, and Frederick became a poster boy for the First Amendment, but in a split decision, the Supreme Court upheld the principal’s right to suspend the student.
Bong Hits 4 Jesus is now, Variety reports, the title of a Paramount/MTV Films production which will be produced by Michael Shamberg and Stacey Sher. The story, to be written by Mark Poirier, will revolve around Frederick’s suspension — and the effect it had on his family. From the article:
“The heart of this story is the relationship between a father and son,” Shamberg said. “Frank Frederick was an insurance adjuster facing the loss of his job if his son didn’t back down.”
Frederick, who’d often discussed the importance of First Amendment rights with his son at the dinner table, would not force his son to drop the case, and he was fired from his job. Father and son now teach English in China.
Shamberg, whose previous collaborations with Sher have included the similarly ripped-from-the-headlines Freedom Writers, World Trade Center, and Erin Brockovich, describes Bong Hits 4 Jesus as being similar to Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, saying it’s “about a young man standing up for his rights.”