Tinkering with the Freedom of Speech To Talk About The Right To Keep and Bear Arms

April 22nd, 2013

Is it unconstitutional for a school to suspend AND arrest (!) a student for wearing an NRA shirt that has a picture of a gun? This father in West Virginia thinks so:

On Thursday, the same day that the gun lobby and its supporters in Congress roundly defeated a package of gun control bills pushed by President Obama, eighth-grader Jared Marcum was suspended by Logan Middle School and briefly jailed for wearing a pro-NRA T-shirt.

The T-shirt had picture of a gun, and school officials deemed it a violation of their dress code, which bans profanity, discrimination, or violence on clothing.

Jared says the decision violates both his First Amendment right to free speech and his Second Amendment right to bear arms, and his father has vowed to “go to the ends of the earth” to clear his son’s name – which could include filing federal or civil lawsuits against the district, a lawyer for the family said.

“What they’re doing is trying to take away my rights, my freedom of speech, and my Second Amendment,” Jared told WOWK-TV.

Under Tinker, it is unclear if such a T-Shirt caused a disruption in the classroom. Really, in West Virginia, guns are so common. I can’t imagine that this was out of the ordinary.

In West Virginia, Jared was told to stay home from school on Friday, and several friends who wore T-shirts with images of guns on them to school as a sign of solidarity were told to take them off. The day before, a dispute between Jared and a Logan Middle School teacher resulted in Jared being arrested and charged with obstruction and disturbing the education process, WOWK reported.

Jared says he has received Facebook posts and phone calls from across the country supporting him. “People are saying that I did the right thing, that they’re proud,” Jared told WOWK.

Senator Manchin could not be reached for comment.