The Madison School District in Wisconsin fired school guard Marlon Anderson for quoting the n-word back to a Madison West High School student in explaining why the student shouldn’t have used that word.

The district has a “zero tolerance” policy for use of the word by any student or employee. But the issue is more complex than one might think; the courts have ruled on both sides.

When I appeared on a panel before the Inns of Court in Houston, Texas, on the topic “Free Speech on Campus,” the matter of hate and racist speech came up and whether the Constitution protects it.

It does and does not. One panelist, a lawyer and regent at a flagship university in Texas, said that if an African-American student offended someone with racist language, he or she “would be history,” expelled before “the end of the day.”

But if public schools take government money, they must comply with the First Amendment.

The second panelist, an African-American law student, said, “I know the n______ word is protected.” She said the word.