Don’t Tread on "T"

Via yesterday’s Best of the Web Today, a link to story in the online edition of the Indianapolis Star reporting that Fort Wayne Community Schools officials violated a high school student’s free-speech rights when they suspended him for wearing a T-shirt bearing the likeness of an M-16 rifle and the text of the Marine Corps creed.

Likelihood of Confusion is no free-speech radical when it comes to students’ rights to “express themselves” in a school context. That right — unlike those of an adult on his own time — is generally circumscribed by bona fide school administration concerns. Frankly I wouldn’t let any students wear t-shirts to school; let them dress like menschen.

But if t-shirts are allowed, schools can’t be overbroad in their regulation of what “disturbing” t-shirt messages will be forbidden. Here a sort of political correctness or heightened (over-)sensitivity seemed to be the culprit, not order, much less law, in the school. The policy the student had violated prohibits students from wearing clothing depicting “symbols of violence.” Evidently the brutal local murder of a student was still on the mind of a lot of students, teachers and parents in and around Elmhurst High School. That, however, was not enough to prevent Griggs from being allowed to wear the shirt which, after all, had nothing to do with murder.

The judge wrote, “”Griggs'[s] shirt has no relation to the (school) board’s legitimate concerns about school violence, nor is it likely to disrupt the educational process.” That sounds about right.

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Author:Ron Coleman

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