Tuesday, March 11, 2008


Ridiculous. That's my one word epithet to describe this story: "Family Sues School District After Son Gets Detention for Wearing T-Shirt With Gun Image."

Question to Fox News: Why is the preposition "With" capitalized but the preposition "for" is not?

Seriously, let me count the annoyances:

  1. A picture of a gun is not a gun. Install metal detectors if you want to keep guns out of schools. But forbidding pictures of guns reminds me of the joke about the (French?) police who chase a criminal into a building. The police want to surround the building to keep the criminal from escaping, but it has too many exits . . . so they surround the building next door, which has fewer exits.
  2. School wardens teachers will often make stupid calls. But I'm bothered that this 14-year-old presumed that because he didn't like it, he didn't have to obey. And didn't.
  3. Why must everything become a federal case? Is there no lower-level authority to which this can be appealed?
  4. No doubt the judiciary will make a hash of this. I'm reminded of the case decided last year (I think) about the kid on a field trip (I think) who unfurled a banner that said "Bong Hits 4 Jesus." This bit of mild iconoclasm amused me, so let's have our chuckle, ha-ha, now take the sign down before somebody decides to get . . . I don't know . . . offended maybe, or perhaps too cavilier toward school rules. Add that the "time, place, and manner" might lead many to assume some kind of official endorsement of the banner's message. But he didn't, received a suspension, and sued.

    The judiciary ultimately sided with the school, which is good, but for the wrong reason: the banner's viewpoint was judged to be in favor of illegal drugs, and therefore worthy of supression. (The banner's viewpoint about Jesus evidently never came up.)

  5. Which brings us to the case at hand. A t-shirt is not a banner, so it would be difficult to construe it as official endorsement, even if worn on a field trip. I don't think that the shirt's message is prejudicial to the good order and discipline of a school, but then I like the message, so I may be biased. I would be sympathetic to a dress code that prohibits clothing with any words or pictures, but I'm not very impressed with school officials picking and choosing the messages they like and don't like.
  6. But this is not likely to enter into legal consideration. According to the Bong Hits case, the court must decide whether the viewpoint (armed resistance to terrorism?) is one that may be supressed. Which is exactly the wrong approach.

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