What do you think of this incident in which a central Pennsylvania high schooler was given detention for refusing to conceal a t-shirt showing a gun and an anti-terrorist message?
According to reports such as this Fox News story, a 14-year-old named Donald Miller III, who attendsShirt Penn Manor High School in Millersville, Pa., wore a shirt depicting a gun and the text: “Special Issue – Resident – Lifetime License – United States Terrorist Hunting Permit – Permit No. 91101 Gun Owner – No Bag Limit” to school in December. When school officials told him to turn the shirt inside out, he refused, and was given two days detention.
Miller’s parents filed a federal freedom of speech lawsuit against the district, but the school stood by its decision. A federal judge will review the case on March 31.
Now, I admit, I would not want to be a school administrator in this post-Columbine era, when there’s so much pressure to spot problem behaviors and act preemptively to avoid future tragedies. But where do you draw the line between preemptive actions and infringements on freedom of speech?
This isn’t the first time a kid has worn a t-shirt featuring a firearm to school leading to disciplinary actions and news headlines, and it certainly won’t be the last. So what do you think of this incident in particular. Would you think twice before sending a kid to school in this shirt? Or – for the teachers and students on the blog – would this shirt stand out as being potentially controversial at your school, or is it a shirt, just like any other deserving no special consideration? Schools have policies against mini skirts and tank tops (I’m playing Devil’s advocate, here), so is it within the rights of a school district to discourage this kind of t-shirt as well? -K.H.