We previously discussed the case of Jared Marcum, 14, who was suspended and arrested for wearing a t-shirt supporting the Second Amendment and the National Rifle Association. While many of us derided the arrest of a student (and the continuation of a trend toward criminalizing our schools), most people assumed that some adult supervision would kick in at the police or prosecution offices and toss out the charges. Think again. We live in a world where adults no longer show such independent thought or discretion. Marcum is now formally charged with obstructing an officer and faces a $500 fine and a maximum of one year in prison.
A teacher spotted the t-shirt with the NRA logo and an image of a hunting rifle with the phrase, “Protect your right.” He was told to turn the t-shirt inside out and protested. An argument ensued. Now at this point, I believe that the teacher is wrong to deny this small act of free speech, but I also believe that Marcum is wrong to get into an argument with a teacher. He should have complied or, better yet, asked to see the principal. However, at most this is a simple question for a teacher-parent meeting and not a matter for the police. It seems that the teacher allowed this to escalate in the lunchroom and Marcum should have been more respectful.
When he refused to take off the shirt, the police arrested him. Logan City Police Chief E.K. Harper insisted that the arrest was appropriate for “disrupting the school process.” In a statement that seems a tad over the top, Harper insisted that “[h]is conduct in school almost incited a riot.”
The school dress code does not prohibit such clothing. It only bars the wearing of clothes expressing profanity, violence, discriminatory messages or sexual language as well as ads for alcohol, tobacco or drugs.
Some reports stated that the police in Logan City (pop. 1,779) threatened to charge Marcum with making terroristic threats. CBS reports that the arresting officer, James Adkins, did not allege any terroristic threats or violence in his account but merely said that the boy would not stop talking. That is the basis for an arrest of a child in school?
It does appear that this is now a serious case, but not because of this t-shirt. Rather, there should be a serious review of the school officials, police officers, and particularly the prosecutor, Michael White, who has maintained the case against this teenager. The teacher was wrong. He is entitled to wear the t-shirt. While he may have been disrespectful, he was defending his free speech in the face of a clearly improper demand from a teacher. It was the adults in this story that escalated this matter to the perverse level of a criminal charge.
19 thoughts on “West Virginia Teenage Facing Charge Over NRA T-Shirt”
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A criminal charge has been dismissed against a West Virginia middle school student who refused a teacher’s order to remove a National Rifle Association T-shirt he wore to school.
Logan County Circuit Judge Eric O’Briant signed an order dismissing an obstruction charge Thursday against 14-year-old Jared Marcum stemming from an April 18 incident at Logan Middle School.
Marcum was charged after a police officer told him to stop talking, but the student didn’t.
Marcum’s attorney, Ben White, says Marcum was exercising his free speech rights and his support for the 2nd Amendment right to bear arms. After a review of statements from the officer and the school’s principal, White says he and a prosecutor agreed that creating a criminal record for Marcum wasn’t a good idea.
JT: “It seems that the teacher allowed this to escalate in the lunchroom and Marcum should have been more respectful.”
JT, why in the world should Marcum have been ‘more respectful’ to the person refusing to respect his right to wear the shirt? Simply because the person was a teacher?
So you get in trouble for talking, but you also get in trouble for keeping silent. Catch 22.
So we are no longer allowed to talk back to, or protest the actions of, a policeman? At this point free speech appears to be dead, and the police have what they want, absolute power over the rest of us. Time for a re-examination of the role of law enforcement in our society – or simply succumb to the police state. I suppose the child’s parents should the grateful that policeman Adkins did not feel “threatened” by the gun on the t-shirt and use his Glock to make the kid “stop resisting.” What a sorry pass this society has come to…
“Adult” bullies because they can be. Absolutely outrageous.
Why won’t they name the teacher that started this? Seems to me that it is an important part of the story. They are an adult who took it upon themselves to play law maker. What a bunch of $hit.
“We live in a world where adults no longer show such independent thought or discretion.”
Yep. What’s even more distressing the seeming willingness by many to embrace an unexamined life. Especially since what Blouise points to indicates his “real crime” was his “failure to be quiet”. If he wasn’t defaming, threatening, using fighting words or trying to incite others, he is free to say what he likes – including wearing the t-shirt that does none of those things either. As others have indicated, the police shouldn’t have even been involved in this matter.
“He should have complied or, better yet, asked to see the principal.” (JT)
“Jared Marcum was told to turn the shirt inside out, and when he refused, he was ordered to the principal’s office, where he refused a second time.”
According to police the charges he faces have to do with his failure to follow police instructions to be quiet when he repeatedly kept interrupting the officer as he was talking to the school officials.
Interesting note: The day after his one day suspension he returned to school wearing the same shirt and other kids did likewise. No one was told to remove their shirts or suspended.
It appears that the teacher was following the district’s policies, but Prof. Turley is correct that the matter should not have become a police action. If a student is not following the rules or misbehaving, he/she should be disciplined by the school, unless a physical altercation occurred.
I am convinced this is a case of hubris by the prosecutor and not real justice. The powers to be were embarassed on a national level by the foolishness of some of their subordinates and they are choosing a tactic to ramrod this kid through the CJ system in an attempt to show that they are right.
I’ve seen this garbage before and this is exactly what it appears to be here. The type of behavior seen here is symptomatic of small minded people who cling to power even more strongly when they feel their territory or position is threatened. Reason is not the decision maker for these types.
You can thank Texas V Johnson for that one….
Gee, it’s ok to burn the flag but you can’t wear that T shirt. My how times have changed.
Had this new principle of criminalizing students who mildly disobey teachers been present in my school years I would be a felon today. This trend of criminalizing non criminal behavior in the in the schools of this country, these days, is not only quite harmful to the educational process but makes for sloppy teaching. If a teacher is unable to deal with a teenager, in what is a mild confrontation, then perhaps that teacher should seek another profession. Having the police available as instant backup gives the teacher an easy out for doing their duty.
That doesn’t yet touch on the question of the violation of this students right of free speech. I don’t like the NRA and I think its leadership is venal, insane, or both. Yet they have a constitutional right to exist as an organization and they have broken no laws that I am aware of. Telling the boy to turn his T shirt inside out was frankly stupid and petty. One of the first rules of good parenting, or good teaching, is not to force confrontation when confrontation is not necessary. Teachers, like LEO’s should understand this as a matter of professionalism.
It’s just another case of “contempt of cop”, pure and simple. The boy needs to learn his place and respect his “superiors” (/s for those impaired).
It was the adults the escalated this to a perverse level.” One of the many reasons I much prefer kids to adults. As the great John Wooden said, “The ideal coaching job is in an orphanage.”
Say what…. Give me the military and my yarmulke…..oh… Different stragety there….or is it…
“He would not stop talking”! Arrest that man”! He’s talking. Someone needs to be punished and its not the kid with the T shirt. We turn a blind eye to massive corporate fraud and massive spying by the government but we are going to put THIS kid in jail. Apparently, the adults left the “building” years ago.
It was the adults in this story that escalated this matter to the perverse level of a criminal charge.
Psychopaths are drawn to power, and they are incapable of not abusing the authority that goes with power.
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