As a former public school teacher, I am well aware of statutes that give schools wide latitude on student dress, behavior, language and actions, based upon the reasonable assessment that certain of these could disrupt the learning process. However, a school in West Virginia recently took incredible steps to punish a child who was wearing a shirt that promoted the National Rifle Association (NRA). Not only that, as local news videos clearly show, the shirt is actually more of a promotion of the 2nd Amendment than the NRA; but in today’s America, the 2nd Amendment is scary.
Here’s the local news report.
There are many problems with what happened to this young man, but one of the most basic which must be pointed out is the complete ambiguity of the “disrupting the learning process” rule. If the school system can argue that a shirt defending the 2nd Amendment is disruptive, than the school can invariably argue that any shirt with text, and some with only colors, could be disruptive.
Rules can only be effective when clearly delineated and logically defined.
Beyond that, there are many problems here and the reporter for the local news station uncovers them with just a few pointed questions. First of all, neither the prosecutor nor the police has any comment on the situation, when they could clear up the entire situation with just a few words. Their lack of comments speaks volumes to the preposterous nature of the charges. Secondly, the officer claims that the student “obstructed an officer” in his line of duty – but the arresting report only mentions that the student would not stop talking. Also, the student was threatened with being charged with making “terroristic threats”, another charge which seems specious according to the arresting documents themselves. Whenever the law has to make up things to charge something with, there is likely something suspicious going on. Third, I think the school bit off a little bit more than it could chew here. Since this escalated as much as it did, but the student has not been charged with aggressive behavior towards anyone at the school, it’s pretty easy to surmise what happened.
When the student would not turn his shirt inside out, he was threatened with a suspension at which point the student likely asked, “What for?” The next few steps happened because a school official was not prepared to say, “We were wrong, please return to class.” If the school had any reason to actually punish the student, they would not have needed to call the police. In most public schools when a student will not submit to dress code, their parents are called and the student is either handed over to the parents or simply suspended. It seems like the school went straight to the police without informing the parents, and this speaks volumes about the entire situation.
I would guess that the charges will soon be dropped, (maybe the President can help with this) especially as more national attention gets turned to this small community in West Virginia.
Even so, this may be an indicator of things to come. When West Virginia begins turning on the 2nd Amendment, you know we’ve got problems.
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