West Virginia Teen Arrested After Refusing To Remove NRA T-Shirt

article-2312730-196C26EA000005DC-284_634x354There is an interesting free speech case brewing in West Virginia where Jared Marcum, 14, has been criminally charged for refusing to remove a T-shirt with National Rifle Association’s logo and hunting rifle. The T-shirt was found in violation of Logan Middle School’s dress code. However, regardless of how you feel about gun rights, the T-shirt was the expression of a recognized constitutional right and constitutes political speech.

Marcum was waiting in line for lunch when a teacher ordered him to remove the T-shirt or to turn it inside out. He refused and was sent to the principal’s office. The police were called and Marcum insisted that there is no rule prohibiting the T-Shirt. He said that the officer told him to sit down and, when he continued to assert his rights, he was arrested.

He was charged him with disrupting an educational process and obstructing an officer. The charges sound suspicious since if he made any serious effort to resist, he would have been charged with resisting arrest and assault of an officer.

The dress code itself prohibits clothing and accessories that display profanity, violence, discriminatory messages or sexually suggestive phrases. I do not see how this fits any more than a T-shirt proclaiming evolution as a theory or peace as a movement.

The dress code does prohibit advertisements for any alcohol, tobacco, or drug product but that would not fit this case.

T-Shirts have long been the target of attempted censorship. In Cohen v. California, 403 U.S. 15 (1971), the United States Supreme Court case overturned a man’s conviction for disturbing the peace for wearing a jacket that displayed the phrase, “Fuck the Draft” in a courthouse. Students have also received such protection. In Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District, 393 U.S. 503 (1969), the Supreme Court supported the first amendment rights of Iowa residents John F. Tinker (15 years old), John’s younger sister Mary Beth Tinker (13 years old), and their friend Christopher Eckhardt (16 years old) in wearing black armbands in protest of the Vietnam War. In his majority decision, Justice Abe Fortas held that “undifferentiated fear or apprehension of disturbance is not enough to overcome the right to freedom of expression.” In a statement would would seem to fit this case, Fortas found that “the record does not demonstrate any facts which might reasonably lead school authorities to forecast substantial disruption of or material interference with school activities, and no disturbances or disorders on the school premises in fact occurred.”

Of course, since Tinker, the Supreme Court has steadily limited the speech rights of students as in the ruling in the “Bong Hits For Jesus” case. Ironically, this trend might be slowed by a case where the expression concerns second amendment rights. However, it is hard to believe that the district will persist in this arrest. Unfortunately, it is also part of a trend toward the criminalization of our schools where disciplinary issues are now being handed over to the police.

This seems a case of over-reaction by a teacher and a failure of the school administrators to take steps to deal appropriately with this issue short of an arrest.

Source: Daily Mail

46 thoughts on “West Virginia Teen Arrested After Refusing To Remove NRA T-Shirt

  1. BTW, I’m one of those socialists that think home schooling and vouchers are un-American but the more I read about children being criminalized for school infraction the more I have to re-evaluate how I would educate my hypothetical kids.

    I can’t even to begin to understand how deciding to use methods other than traditional schooling is “un-American,” any more than I understand how it’s “un-American” to not go to church or criticize the government.

    Teaching’s a skill. Especially teaching subjects like science and math.

    As a former teacher, I agree. But this pretends that homeschooling parents don’t use outside resources for subjects they’re not good at, when they actually do. All the time. Regularly.

    Tutors, museum classes, you name it. If there’s a resource for a homeschooling parent, they will use it, because they know they need all the help they can get.

    That’s one of the reasons there is no evidence that kids entering college after being homeschooled are less prepared than kids who were publicly schooled.

    Unfortunately, I find that people who criticize the very practice of homeschooling (using irrelevant arguments like this) have little to no experience in homeschooling communities. Yes, that’s right, folks. I said, “communities!”

    It serves a valid function of the state for the benefit of the state and socializes children by providing at its most basic level, if it’s working properly, a sheltering gateway to the wider society.

    I think you’re right, lottakatz, about being “conservative” about schooling, because there is as much evidence to support your above assertion as there is to support conservative assertions that schools are teaching kids to be gay communists.

    There is no evidence that kids who are homeschooled are not as well socialized as kids who go to public school. Homeschooling parents want their kids to have friends and regular activities with those friends just as much as public school parents do. It’s a natural desire for any parent.

    Schools are great for some kids and awful for lots of others. Homeschooling is the same. Those are simple facts. Condemning one or the other method out of hand isn’t a matter of being “liberal” or “conservative,” really. It’s just an objectively incorrect thing to do.

  2. Update:

    Students from all over the county showed up the next day wearing similar t-shirts in solidarity. This student had a one day suspension and went back to school wearing the same t-shirt.

  3. LJM, Sorry, I’m having some work done to my house and had some people out yesterday. They’re killin’ me and I’m paying through the nose for it. LOL, first-world concerns, whine, whine, whine.

    Something about your rebuttal struck me, your claim that there are “communities” of people that home-school. What communities? Who are the members (demographically) of these communities? And why, if they can agree on a curriculum don’t they just borrow someones family room or even rent some space and start their own school? As long as there is a meeting of the minds it would seem to be a way to husband their resources and still get the job done. It seems to me that these communities are doing the job the hard way. “Communities” can mean ideology or locale, I need more info.

    To address other aspects of your posting: If a child has special needs that can be better addressed at home then homeschooling may well be appropriate. If one lives 150 miles from the nearest school which may still be the case in some states, then homeschooling or telecommuting actually, may be the best way to get the job done. Every rule has and needs exceptions. I am not adverse to that. I’m suspecting that that group of children probably constitute the small minority of students.

    The homeschooling ‘movement’, for lack of a better word, has little to do with kids and everything to do with parents. Everything I have read about thee parents indicate that the majority of home-schoolers (60%+) are ideologues and are comprised primarily of Christians that want the material provided in a christian context. The rest are divided among people that feel schools are not competent and persons that have distance/disability related problems. I’m sure that there are other reasons.

    Schools provide social opportunities that mimic the greater society, homeschooling is just the child and mom or dad. Yes, in my life view things like diversity across the entire spectrum of cultural indicators is important. Home-schoolers get to establish the manner of presentation of the material, pace of learning, as well as the context.

    Pace is not so much on my radar except that the pace in public schools is determined (again, I have read) by what a young mind should be ready for at a particular age based on studies of what constitutes a normative learning curve. Even in public schools a rigid pace is not necessarily a great thing but works for the majority of students. I grew up when kids were held back or moved ahead, that was the method of dealing with different academic readiness. It left something to be desired. Pace and readiness could generate it’s own mini-debate among people familiar with its pitfalls, I’m sure.

    I think a society has a duty to itself and its children to pass along skills and ideas that benefit the society as well as the child being trained to live in that society and to do so without coloring those things. Yes, that means toeing the nationalist line at its fundamental best. I don’t care if the coloring, or context, is christian biblical, catholic, Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist or white power, or black power or any other power. The Amish should go to public school.

    Aside: [Found myself on “Stormfront” a couple of days ago- wow, I am always amazed at that site in the same way I am amazed at the quiver-full and separatist christian sites. Some of those white power folks home-school too from the comments I read. Since I refuse to become a member many of the site pages are off limits to me; if they are big on homeschooling and have threads on that I can’t get to them since I am limited to comments on a few threads.]

    The group of people that think the schools aren’t competent are in some respects correct but that’s an old and well founded argument over at least the 50+ years I’ve been watching the schools. Even off and on the fact that some schools are better than others at doing the job has been a constant. But I like the Gordian knot solution on that front, if a school isn’t performing just close it down, test the kids for grade readiness and reassign them to other schools that are performing.

    Yea’ I’ve heard the arguments between closing or making them better, but meanwhile the kids are trapped in a non-performing school and being shortchanged. I’m for getting them where they need to be to succeed as quickly as possible. Redirect the money being wasted on non-performing schools to schools that are worth subsidizing. It would be disruptive but wouldn’t go on forever. Schools are part of the infrastructure, like bridges and roads. I’m not adverse to remaking them, or a substantial bunch of them from the ground up to meet current needs.

    If the establishment clause was applied strictly and there was a mechanism for seeing to it that kids didn’t need to be trapped in a poor school I’m betting 90% of homeschooling would be neutered.

    Still, I’d like to know who those ‘communities are from your perspective.

  4. lottakatz,

    Something about your rebuttal struck me, your claim that there are “communities” of people that home-school. What communities? Who are the members (demographically) of these communities?

    Communities of homeschoolers exist all over the country, in rural areas and and major metropolitan areas, alike. In the San Francisco Bay Area, there are several with hundreds of families. In each group you a mixture of races and religions and economic backgrounds.

    And why, if they can agree on a curriculum don’t they just borrow someones family room or even rent some space and start their own school?

    The one thing that homeschoolers agree on is that kids learn in different ways. There are lots of different ways to homeschool, from making a school environment at home to radical unschooling where kids have no requirements of them at all. And there are countless combinations in varying degrees of both these philosophies in homeschooling groups. Many times some families get together to study one thing and other get together to study another. They meet at museums and parks and they learn together. For most homeschoolers, the surrounding hundred miles is the school.

    As long as there is a meeting of the minds it would seem to be a way to husband their resources and still get the job done.

    Well, you have to define what “the job” is. And that’s a whole separate conversation. What “education” is, is different to different people. I think that’s because education is such a profoundly personal experience, even though it frequently occurs in groups. But which groups and when and how and why are all very, very personal choices. On the whole, homeschooling families “get the job done” in a way that brings them the most joy, the most satisfying results. Some families find that joy and satisfaction in public and private schools. Some families wing it. It’s a personal journey.

    I’m suspecting that that group of children probably constitute the small minority of students.

    Yes, just as in regular schooling, special needs kids (the population I worked with) are in the minority.

    The homeschooling ‘movement’, for lack of a better word, has little to do with kids and everything to do with parents.

    With all due respect, this is as ignorant and objectively wrong as it is insulting.

    Everything I have read about thee parents indicate that the majority of home-schoolers (60%+) are ideologues and are comprised primarily of Christians that want the material provided in a christian context.

    You are at a profound disadvantage, basing your very strongly held opinion on outdated and inaccurate information. The most recent research shows that about one third of families homeschool primarily for religious reasons.

    http://nces.ed.gov/pubs2006/homeschool/parentsreasons.asp

    Schools provide social opportunities that mimic the greater society, homeschooling is just the child and mom or dad.

    This is simply and demonstrably false. Homeschooling families work hard to get their kids into a variety of classes and sports and other opportunities for social interaction. Just this last weekend, my 13 year old son attended a masquerade ball for his homeschooling group. There were over a hundred kids there. Black, white, Latino, Asian, Indian, you name it. My son has a much more diverse group of friends than I ever did growing up.

    Pace is not so much on my radar except that the pace in public schools is determined (again, I have read) by what a young mind should be ready for at a particular age based on studies of what constitutes a normative learning curve.

    There is as much scientific evidence to support this assertion as there is to support astrology. Kids are individuals with individual methods of learning. There is no “should” when it comes to what a young mind is ready for. There simply isn’t. And it’s precisely because of this that so many kids are failed by public school.

    Again, I’m for public schools. I support the idea of public schools. But they are, unquestionably, failing millions of kids, because of the stubborn, baseless assertion that the basic paradigm works.

    Even in public schools a rigid pace is not necessarily a great thing but works for the majority of students.

    What do you mean by “works?” Are the majority of kids very happy in school? Are the majority of kids really learning or are they temporarily memorizing? There are lots of brilliant, successful adults who went to school who will tell you that they hated every moment of it and that they succeeded despite it.

    I think a society has a duty to itself and its children to pass along skills and ideas that benefit the society as well as the child being trained to live in that society and to do so without coloring those things.

    If you cannot demonstrate that homeschooled kids are less likely to have these skills, then your entire argument is moot. And you cannot demonstrate it, because there is no evidence to support the notion that homeschooled kids are less likely to possess these skills.

    Yes, that means toeing the nationalist line at its fundamental best. I don’t care if the coloring, or context, is christian biblical, catholic, Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist or white power, or black power or any other power. The Amish should go to public school.

    This is a more fundamental kind of disagreement, then. I believe that the way we choose to educate ourselves and our kids is as personal as the way we worship or don’t. And so, for me, the idea that people should be forced to send their kids to a school they don’t want to attend is no different than forcing them to attend a church they don’t want to attend. It is fundamentally a totalitarian idea and has no place in a free, liberal society.

    When we talk about how a school “performs” we’re using a failed metric: standardized tests. Until the paradigm changes, there’s no use in talking about how a school performs. It’s meaningless when a “high performing” school can have hundreds of intelligent students who hate to be there and can’t wait to leave. They are not really learning and it’s silly and counterproductive to pretend they are.

    Homeschooling is growing in popularity. And the percentage of religious fundamentalists in homeschooling is steadily decreasing. There is no sign of that growth slowing and this is a good thing. I do agree, that when schools give up on the idea that testing is what measures progress, that all kids must progress at the same rate, and that authoritarian structures must exist to keep kids in line, rates of homeschooling might decrease.

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