West Virginia Family Sues Over Arrest Of Teenager For Wearing NRA Tee-Shirt To School

article-2312730-196c26ea000005dc-284_634x354We 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 the police or prosecutors would immediately show a modicum of sense in refusing to bring the charges of disrupting the educational process and obstructing an officer. We were wrong but the charges were ultimately dismissed. Now, the family in West Virginia is suing.

The case began when a a teacher spotted the t-shirt with the NRA logo and an image of a hunting rifle with the phrase, “Protect your right.” Marcum was stopped by school secretary Anita Gore, who instructed him to turn the shirt inside our or face suspension from school. Another teacher David Burroway agreed the shirt violated the dress code and pulled him to the principal’s office by his arm, according to the lawsuit. 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.

The family is now seeking $200,000 in compensatory damages and $250,000 in punitive damages for alleged violations of Marcum’s First and 14th Amendment rights. The school’s own dress code will be the foundation for the lawsuit because the tee-shirt will be defended as not having violent of threatening image. It could offer an interesting point of analysis for free speech. Gun ownership is a constitutionally protected individual right. Would a tee-shirt proclaiming the need to protect free speech be viewed as violent if it showed the minutemen or an image from the French Revolution?

It will not surprise many on this blog that I tend to run home to free speech in such conflicts. This seems too much of content-based regulation for my tastes. We have previously followed the suspensions and discipline of students under zero tolerance policies that are used by teachers to justify zero judgment or responsibility. I have long criticized zero tolerance policies that have led to suspensions and arrests of children (here, here and here and here and here). Here is a prior column on the subject (and here).Children have been suspended or expelled for drawing stick figures or wearing military hats or bringing Legos shaped like guns or even having Danish in the shape of a gun. Despite the public outcry over the completely irrational and abusive application of zero tolerance rules, administrators and teachers continue to apply them blindly. If you do not have to exercise judgment, you can never been blamed for any failure. Conversely, even when the public outcry results in a reversals, teachers and administrators never seem punished with the same vigor for showing no judgment or logic in punishing a child.

What do you think?

37 thoughts on “West Virginia Family Sues Over Arrest Of Teenager For Wearing NRA Tee-Shirt To School”

  1. Liberals became ashamed of being called liberals during the Reagan years. So, they did a rebranding and started calling themselves progressives. I have seen a running away from that label as well lately. They just need to call themselves socialists or communists and dispense w/ the pretense.

  2. lol!…funny stuff nick…teabaggers are also referred to as :joto” in my neck of the woods

  3. Issac, progressive is a term used by people to describe themselves, which makes it perfectly acceptable to refer to them as such. Teabagger is term for sex act (usually a forced sex act) which has been taken up by some progressives as a derogatory term for those who support constitutional government and governmental fiscal responsibility. They are not equally innocuous terms. But then, you already knew that just enjoy being nasty to those who disagree with you.

  4. No one who loves their children and their country should send their kids to government schools!
    Charlotte Iserbey exposed their plan of manipulation, belief change, and indoctrination for children to become merely servile factory union dues payers and perpetual cravers of the consumer goods that TV hypnotizes them to need.

  5. Everything in moderation. Even on First Amendment topics. “astardBays” OK? Pig Latin?

  6. Maybe teabagging is a righteous activity in Europe and Canada like socialism. I think it’s disgusting

  7. Teabagging is holding a person down and several men bouncing their scrotums in the victims face. Progressive is an insurance company w/ an obnoxious spokeswoman, and/or socialists.

  8. Isaac:

    “An intelligent teacher would have transitioned the issue into an open discussion in class.” You are absolutely right. A good teacher could have segued into a very interesting class discussion on the Constitution, free speech, and opposing ideas.

  9. Pogo:

    “Until school staff, including teachers and principals, are fired for these offenses, nothing will change.” I am curious who pays for the lawsuit. Does it come out of the school district’s budget, so they face a shortfall because of their own actions? Or are they covered by insurance, or the taxpayers, so this bad decision does not affect them.

  10. All it would have taken to prevent this expensive PR and legal mess was someone having common sense. But the principal did not and neither did the DA. It got all the way before a judge before someone showed some judgement.

  11. Why is a T-shirt supporting the 2nd Amendment offensive or threatening to anyone, even the fools in charge of the public education system? Flashing gang signs is threatening. Wearing a shirt that says “Death to all Jews (or insert group here)” is threatening. A shirt that says “I’m planning to copy Columbine” is threatening.

    But a shirt basically saying we have the right to keep and bear arms is threatening no one. You would think a free speech slogan on a garment supporting any part of our Constitution would be supported by educators.

    If this had only gone as far as the teacher forcing the child to turn the shirt inside out, I would have thought this would have been solved by a meeting with the principal, or a strongly worded letter from an attorney if the principal did not understand our Constitution, either.

    But since the child was arrested AND charged, it has risen to the level that there are some things that only a lawsuit can make people understand. You do not expel/suspend/arrest children for chewing pastries into a gun shape, for playing with their fingers like they are guns, water pistols, or for having an image of a firearm on a Tshirt, a shirt supporting our military, or for wearing a Tshirt with a superhero holding a gun shaped weapon. And if you do abuse a child by failing to understand this, then you will be sued until you learn.

    As another poster has pointed out, an image of a firearm in many parts of America merely brings to mind hunting and stocking your freezer and spending time with your Dad. In a gang infested neighborhood it represents the threat of violent crime.

    Darren – you have GOT to be kidding. These teachers and administrators walk by a statue honoring a soldier with a weapon every day and then violate a student’s free speech rights for a harmless t-shirt??? Do they find that statue threatening, too?

  12. Here is a statue standing in front of the school in question.

    I believe the school clearly violated the free speech rights of this student. It is another example of someone in authority making a stupid decision over something petty and it mushrooms into a great and unnecessary controversy. Now, it will cost the school over a hundred grand or more in legal fees and possibly a judgment.

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