Less than two weeks ago, an American appellate court ruled students could be prohibited from wearing clothes bearing an image of the nation’s flag. Apparently, the mere sight of the Stars and Stripes can cause fellow students to fly into a fit of violent rage.
That unconscionable story was only compounded by the decision of administrators at one New York school recently. Grand Island High School sophomore Shane Kinney wore a T-shirt to school with a message supportive of the Second Amendment.
Although he had worn the shirt previously, and its message in no way violated the school’s dress code, a teacher told him to turn it inside out, calling the graphic “inappropriate.”
Kinney respectfully refused the command, prompting administrators to promptly suspend him. While there was never any evidence the shirt should have been banned, the principal defended the suspension by referencing a rule related to prohibited clothing.
By upholding such a seemingly disingenuous explanation, the school now has the implied power to force students to remove or reverse any type of clothing its staff members find personally distasteful.
As far as his fellow students are concerned, Kinney’s told a local radio station that they were completely supportive of the shirt’s message.
“They haven’t said anything bad about it,” he said. “The only people giving me trouble were teachers.”
A local NBC affiliate was unable to speak directly to the school district’s superintendent; however, she released a statement regarding the controversy.
“The Grand Island School District recognizes this matter as an opportunity to review its policies, procedures and actions to ensure that they are consistent with our commitment to provide a safe learning environment and protect students’ Constitutional rights,” she wrote.
Terese Lawrence further emphasized that “no student was disciplined for wearing a shirt expressing a position on the NRA or gun control.”
By all accounts, however, Kinney was suspended for refusing to turn the shirt inside out – despite the fact that the school’s dress code supported his right to wear it.
–B. Christopher Agee
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Photo Credit: The U.S. National Archives (Creative Commons)