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April 23, 2013

Taking A Contrarian Position On A Current Internet Controversy

I’m generally a big fan of free speech for students. I regularly cite Tinker v. Des Moines’ most famous line, namely that “students do not lose their constitutional rights at the schoolhouse gate.” It therefore may surprise people where I come down on this story.

A West Virginia student was charged with causing a disruption at a middle school when he refused to remove a T-shirt that displayed the National Rifle Association’s logo and hunting rifle.

Jared Marcum, 14, said the shirt did not violate Logan Middle School’s dress code policy.

“I was surprised. It shocked me that the school didn’t know their own dress code and their own policy. I figured they would have known not to call me out on that shirt because there was nothing wrong with it,” Marcum said in a telephone interview.

Marcum’s stepfather, Allen Lardieri, said the youth was waiting in line in the school cafeteria Thursday when a teacher ordered the eighth-grader to remove the T-shirt or to turn it inside out.

Marcum said was sent to the office where he again refused the order.
“When the police came, I was still talking and telling them that this was wrong, that they cannot do this, it’s not against any school policy. The officer, he told me to sit down and be quiet. I said, ‘No, I’m exercising my right to free speech.’ I said it calmly,” he said.

Police charged him with disrupting an educational process and obstructing an officer, he said.

Now I think that arresting the boy goes a bit too far, but I actually agree with the school on the issue of whether or not the shirt violates the dress code. Here’s why – the dress code at the school can be read as prohibiting the shirt. Here’s the provision cited by the school for objecting to the shirt.

Clothing and accessories that display profanity, violence, discriminatory messages or sexually suggestive phrases are not to be worn at school or school functions.

Now I teach in a district with a similar dress code provision, and on the three different campuses where I have taught we have generally interpreted the rule prohibiting depictions of violence as forbidding a display of guns and bullets on articles of clothing. In other words, Jared Marcum would have most likely have been deemed out of dress code at my school, too. Ultimately, the school administration must make the judgment call on that – and in the case of the shirt worn by young Mr. Marcum, the administration determined that it was a violation. I’m inclined to support them on this one if there has been a consistent practice similar to that in my district.

And I say that even though I am 100% in agreement with the sentiments expressed on the shirt in question.





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Soooo, if the boy had just taken his shirt off and gone shirtless the rest of the day that would have been within school dress code guidelines?
You can't have it both ways.
And if the boy was waiting in line for lunch exactly how is this interferring with the educational process?

|| Posted by DL Sly, April 25, 2013 11:34 AM ||

Did you read the "turn it inside out" part? That would have ended the matter.

|| Posted by Rhymes With Right, April 25, 2013 11:59 AM ||

BTW -- anything that disrupts school operations -- including in the lunchroom -- falls under the "disrupting the educational process" rubric under most state statutes.

|| Posted by Rhymes With Right, April 25, 2013 05:36 PM ||

RwR-Please tell me/us in your professional opinion how this young man's shirt caused a disruption? Were kids fighting over the shirt?

It seems to me school officials caused more of disruption than the shirt. I'm sure the school officials embarrassed this young man while he was standing in line for lunch (causing a disruption), sending him to the office (causing a disruption), and then calling the police to the school (causing more disruption).

|| Posted by Glen Leinert, April 25, 2013 08:48 PM ||

The shirt did not cause the disruption.

the refusal to follow the directive to comply with the dress code caused the disruption.

the blatant disrespect for the teacher enforcing school policy caused the disruption.

The refusal to comply with the directive of the administrators to comply with the dress code caused the disruption.

The refusal to follow the directive of the police officer to sit down and be quiet caused the disruption.

Sorry -- this kid was in the wrong, and those of you who have backed him have managed to undercut discipline in school one more notch.

|| Posted by Rhymes With Right, April 26, 2013 08:54 PM ||

RwR- I'm a big fan of yours, and have enjoyed reading your blog for several years. Just because I don't agree with you on this issue doesn't mean I've undercut our school system.

After rereading the dress code, I don't see where the teacher had probable cause to even speak with the student about his shirt.

Student dress and grooming should be in good taste and appropriate for the occasion.
Sunglasses are not to be worn in the classroom unless a medical permit is on file.
No hats or bandannas are to be worn in the building during the class day. If students must wear a hat to school, the hat must be placed in the locker and left there until the school day is over. Vocational students may take their hat at the time of their departure.
Appropriate clothing should be worn at all times. The main torso of the body should not be visible. Therefore, the wearing of mesh shirts would be inappropriate without and appropriate shirt under the mesh shirt. The wearing of garments considered as tank tops or tops with spaghetti straps is inappropriate.
Any article of clothing or accessories, such as jewelry with spikes, dog collars, wallet chains, chains worn as belts, that may cause injury to another student may not be worn at school or school functions.
Clothing and accessories that display profanity, violence, discriminatory messages or sexually suggestive phrases are not to be worn at school or school functions.
Clothing that displays advertisements for any alcohol, tobacco, or drug product is not to be worn at school or school functions.
Waistband of shorts, slacks, skirts, and similar garments must be worn above the hips. If belts, suspenders, or straps are worn, they must be worn in place and fastened. Undergarments shall not be visible. Any article of clothing that is excessively torn may not be worn.
Shoes must be worn at all times. Shoes with laces should be laced and tied at all times.
Business-style blazers, suitcoats, and ties are permitted but outdoor jackets and coats are not to be worn or carried to class.
The legs of trousers and pants shall be worn down at all times.
Hem lengths on dresses, skirts, and shorts must be no higher than mid thigh.

So it's okay for Enidris Siurano to cause a disruption by her refusal to comply with the directive of a school teacher/administrator, however, it's not okay for this young man to cause a disruption by wearing a NRA shirt, btw that's not listed in the dress code?

|| Posted by Glen Leinert, April 27, 2013 08:10 AM ||

I know what you are looking at as far as the dress code -- indeed, I linked it above. And I even explained how (arguably) the shirt might have violated the dress code. And I've pointed out where his response did constitute a disruption.

As for the young lady with the pledge -- there is a 70 year old Supreme Court precedent that directly applies to her right to not say the pledge and not stand for it. That is beyond argument.

But I am sorry if my final line was a bit harsh, Glen.

|| Posted by Rhymes With Right, April 27, 2013 01:22 PM ||

"...a teacher ordered the eighth-grader to remove the T-shirt or to turn it inside out."

Yes, Greg, I did read the "or turn it inside out" part. Did you read the "remove the T-shirt" part?
He was given two options by the authority figure in front of him. If he had chosen the option of removing his shirt, this would have put him violation of the dress code, yes?
And, fwiw, what would have "ended the matter" would have been if the teacher had had a scintilla of adult impulse control wrt her personal 2nd amendment opinions and the urge to impose her views upon every inanimate object she sees ala strawberry poptart pistols and Hello Kitty bubble makers.

|| Posted by DL Sly, April 28, 2013 10:15 AM ||

1) I would presume that the kid had a second shirt on underneath the NRA one, hence the choice to remove it or turn it inside out.

2) I think you know I am pro-gun from reading this site -- but the only thing I might have done different is refer the matter to an administrator rather than handle it myself. That is how such matters are handled at my school. But I would have had the same response to the shirt, given how a nearly identical policy is enforced in my district.

|| Posted by Rhymes With Right, April 28, 2013 12:40 PM ||
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