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Dean of Students

NRA T-shirt provokes school to break First Amendment

More cases are popping up around the country dealing with First Amendment Rights in public schools.

When I was reading about a case in California where a 16-year-old student was recently ordered to remove her National Rifle Association (NRA) T-shirt, it made me think back to when I was in high school. I would regularly see students walking around with their shirts inside-out because the school deemed their shirt “inappropriate.” Some of the students at my high school were even threatened with suspension, just like the student mentioned above.

I do not understand the justification for this kind of behavior toward something as trivial as wearing a T-shirt supporting a controversial organization.

According to examiner.com, Anaheim Hills in California threatened 16-year-old Haley Bullwinkle with suspension if she did not remove her NRA T-shirt that was provided by her father. She was running late, so she grabbed a T-shirt from her father’s closet. Her father has been a member of the NRA for years, and he was outraged by the school’s actions against his daughter. The school justified its actions toward Bullwinkle by stating that the T-shirt promotes  violence.

Yes, there is controversy surrounding the NRA in general. But, the NRA does not promote violence against other people. They are simply gun lobbyists who strive to protect an American right that has been established for hundreds of years. According to yahoo.com, the school has recently apologized for threatening Bullwinkle with suspension, and will take steps to prevent this kind of action from happening again.

Regardless of its apology, the school should have known it was out of line in the first place.

The frequency of the negligence of First Amendment rights in schools is astounding. It seems every time I turn on the news, a student is punished for expressing their right to free speech, which has existed since 1791.

Private schools do have the right to establish certain rules their students must abide by since private schools do not receive funding from the government. They also have the right to hand-select their students and charge entrance fees. Because of this, students are aware of the expectations that the school has for them when they enter such an establishment. In the case of Bullwinkle, since she was not advocating violence or breaking the established dress-code, the public school of Anaheim Hills was unjustified in its response to the T-shirt.

Obviously, schools should have some guidelines in regards to dress-code. The students are a representation of their school they attend and should represent their school well. Schools  should not allow their students to run-around half-naked or wear apparel that advocates hate. I think in this case of the NRA T-shirt, America is in a constant state of fear in regards to violence in schools. In my opinion, the principal at Anaheim Hills saw the NRA shirt in a school setting, associated the shirt with the school shootings in recent memory, and irrationally tried to protect her students from harm.

While rules can and should be established for the sake of a safe learning environment, they should not misrepresent basic American rights.

Chris Chipman is a junior english major and columnist at The Vidette. Any quesitons or comments regarding his column can be sent dv_chipm2@ilstu.edu. 

 

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