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Kid had right to wear NRA T-shirt to school
April 23, 2013 - Andrea Johnson
Some teachers and principals apparently need to be reminded that kids don't check their free speech rights at the school door. Under most circumstances, it's also inappropriate for schools to call the police to deal with a stroppy adolescent.
According to ABC, last week Jared Marcum, a student at Logan Middle School in West Virginia, was arrested following a confrontation with his teacher over a National Rifle Association T-shirt. Jared wore the shirt, which shows a gun and has the wording "NRA: Protect Your Right" to school. No one commented on it until lunch hour, when one teacher demanded that the boy either take the shirt off or turn it inside out. Jared refused and began to argue with the teacher, who raised his own voice. The police were called. According to his lawyer, Jared held out his wrists and told them to go ahead when he was threatened with arrest. He was placed under arrest for being disruptive.
Other kids in the lunch room heard the ruckus and reacted as middle school students do. As Jared was being taken out, the other kids jumped up on the lunchroom benches and cheered him on. Jared's lawyer claims that it was the teacher who caused a disruption, not the boy, and the school video will back them up.
Jared was held for about thirty minutes at the police station and released to his mother, according to ABC. The local prosecutor's office is deciding whether to bring charges against him. The boy was suspended from school for one day but returned to classes the next day wearing the same NRA T-shirt.
According to ABC, the school's dress code, as is typical of most such dress codes, including that of the Minot Public Schools, prohibits words or images that contain swearing, violence, prejudice and advertising for alcohol or tobacco or drugs. Nothing is said about images of guns, though I suppose at a stretch the school could include it under the prohibition against violent imagery.
On the other hand, this boy was wearing a shirt in a public school, specifically in defense of his Second Amendment rights, at a time when Congress was voting on gun control legislation. The school should have respected his right to freedom of speech. Instead, the teacher apparently let his own emotions get the better of him and engaged in a loud debate with a 14-year-old. That is always a bad idea, especially when it takes place in front of the entire student body. I wonder if the kid was arrested as much because the teacher lost face as because Jared was being disobedient.
Jared will likely be able to dine out on this story for years. Having been an opinionated 14-year-old myself, I am pretty sure he's still basking in the glow. The whole class apparently learned a lesson about exercising one's constitutional freedoms. According to Jared's lawyer, a number of the other kids wore NRA T-shirts to school in support of Jared's stand.
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