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.