The University of Hawaii didn't violate First Amendment rights when it denied a teaching certificate for an aspiring high school teacher who expressed views condoning adults having sex with minors, says a federal court ruling. Mark Oyama enrolled in the secondary education certification program at the University of Hawaii's Manoa campus in 2010, and his "statements concerning sexual relationships between adults and children were of central concern to the faculty," according to a ruling by the panel of judges on the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. In a class assignment he wrote: "Personally I think that online child predation should be legal, and find it ridiculous that one could be arrested for comments they make on the Internet." He went on to write that "real life child predation should be legal" as long as it's consensual and that the age of consent should be "either 0, or whatever age a child is when puberty begins."
When a professor discussed the statements with Oyama, he said it would be fine for a 12-year-old student to have a consensual relationship with a teacher, but that he would obey the law and report the relationship, according to the ruling. Oyama made other comments his professors found concerning, such as disabled students being "fakers." The comments were relevant in determining whether he should be allowed to work as a public school teacher, the panel concluded, and the university's decision was "directly related to defined and established professional standards" at state and national levels. The ruling is troubling because it allows the university to censor someone's opinions that aren't acted upon, said Oyama's attorney, who describes his client as a socially awkward nerd. Oyama filed the lawsuit alleging First Amendment violations after his certification was denied and he couldn't come to an agreement about a tuition refund. (Read more Hawaii stories.)