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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.


Article Comments



May-04-13 5:28 AM

While you are at school you are under their authority. The disruption caused is evident. The kid came to school to wearing the shirt to make a political statement. That is not conducive to harmony as schools are for learning not making political points.

If it is a part of Freedom of Speech, than would someone be ok to walk into school wearing a t-shirt that said, " Down with all Religion, or "Islam is the only way", or "George Bush was a terrorist" would that be ok? I think not.

Also he was not arrested for wearing the shirt, he was arrested for disruptive behavior to a police officer as I read it.


Apr-30-13 2:16 PM

I'm all for freedom of speech, but there is an appropriate time and place for everything and at a public school during school hours is not the appropriate time or place to be belligerent or vocal about controversial issues. It's disruptive and incredibly irresponsible of his parents to allow that sort of ridiculous behaviour.


Apr-29-13 7:59 PM

Say what you will about the shirt, but when Jared became smart-alecky with the police he crossed that line from possibly being a victim to clearly becoming a problem, and was not unreasonably dealt with as such.


Apr-27-13 10:20 AM

It is pretty easy to defend this kids right to challenge rules and authority from ND. WV is fairly close to Sandy Hook and certainly emotions run higher on the East coast. But, why would a 14 year old find this type of T-shirt and then wear it to school? Have you ever seen a 14 year old stay calm when they feel they can challenge authority in front of the other students. I am sure that he was doing it with full knowledge of his parents as well. I would not have liked a student wearing a shirt with a hunting rifle on it especially if I lived in the area of Sandy Hook. You want to tell me that he did not wear the shirt for effect and that he was going to show them. He wore it for the confrontation and he was looking forward to the disruption it would cause. Now, the police showed up because the student was Calm???? He was arrested because he was calm..... If you believe that, then there is swamp property for sale around Devils Lake.


Apr-26-13 11:42 AM

Ihaveasay, you take on the teacher is correct.


Apr-26-13 10:30 AM

I was raised to respect my elders and those in positions of authority. In the military I learned to follow orders and respect those over me, but I also learned if I obeyed an unlawful order, I was responsible. First, the teacher had no authority to ask the student to remove his shirt. Second, the teacher should have removed the student from the area before engaging the student. This teacher has no leadership skills.


Apr-25-13 8:06 PM

"Speech." Yes, I do, and the T-shirt this kid was wearing is a prime example of it.


Apr-24-13 5:36 PM

More kids began wearing NRA t-shirts after Jared was arrested? I'd say that was typical 14-year-old behavior.

According to the school's dress code, Jared was within his rights to wear the shirt. I suppose he knew somebody would confront him about it too--arguing, holding out wrists for cuffs, etc. He's getting his 15 minutes, right?

This kid's "home training" seems adequate enough. How about Occupy protestors? Their "home training" seemed to be missing a respect for their surroundings--leaving litter, etc.


Apr-24-13 9:39 AM

Andrea wrote... "An NRA T-shirt with a rifle and the words "Protect Your Right" is clearly political speech", Andrea you highlighted the whole gun ownership problem with those words. Politics has no place in the Constitution or Bill of Rights, except for those who try to use political power to change the Constitution and Bill of Rights.


Apr-24-13 9:26 AM

I have my doubts that a Hooters T-shirt would qualify as freedom of speech in quite the same way. An NRA T-shirt with a rifle and the words "Protect Your Right" is clearly political speech, which is protected for kids as well as adults in a public space, which the school is. Schools are permitted to curtail that speech when it's clearly disruptive to the educational process, which is what the administration is arguing, but it sounds like it was the teacher who escalated the argument.

I agree that the kid was disrespectful. On the other hand, I don't know that respect for authority, all the time, is a value that I want instilled in kids. Questioning authority is healthy and rebellion is an adolescent's job. The teacher mishandled the situation and lost face in front of the school, which is likely why the police were called in. This particular kid likely needs some lessons in how to stand up for his rights a little differently.


Apr-24-13 8:12 AM

My parents taught me to stand up for myself and for my beliefs but they also taught me to respect my elders. This kid is lacking some serious home training.


Apr-24-13 8:10 AM

Whew as an adult the teacher should know not to challenge kids that way. The teacher gave the students a focal point and they will surely use it. It's amazing how even the clothes people wear can be considered dangerous to some, much like lifeless metal guns are to some.


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