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Archive for Friday, October 12, 2007

School bans student from wearing T-shirt supporting John Edwards

October 12, 2007

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— A Waxahachie High School sophomore is at the center of a First Amendment debate after school officials told him he could not wear a T-shirt that supports Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards.

The parents of 15-year-old Paul T. "Pete" Palmer are asking school officials to reconsider the school district's dress code policy and threatening to sue if no changes are made.

Pete's dad, attorney Paul D. Palmer, said this week that the school district is entitled to a dress code as long as it doesn't violate students' constitutional rights to free political and religious expression.

"This is not about a hippie-dippy idea - 'everyone can wear whatever they want,"' Palmer said. "'This is who I support for president.' He has a right to stick that on his shirt."

The school district declined to provide specifics on the case but provided a written statement, which included the following: "The district also values student speech rights. ... Our schools, however, are not unbounded forums for practicing student speech, and our primary focus remains creating and maintaining an environment conducive to learning."

Pete said he woke up early the morning of Sept. 21 and threw on clothes before rushing off to football practice.

After practice, however, a school official pulled Pete aside and told him he was violating the dress code policy approved in May, which prohibits all-black outfits. He was sent to the administrative offices and told to change clothes before returning to class.

Pete called his father.

"He wanted me to bring another shirt," Palmer said. He then asked Pete, "How about that Edwards shirt? And he said OK."

After changing into the shirt, which read "John Edwards 08" and included a Web site address, he was told again that his clothing violated school policy and he would not be allowed to return to class until he complied, his parents said.

The school dress code policy allows T-shirts that promote Waxahachie clubs, organizations and sports or other spirit wear. College and university T-shirts or solid-colored T-shirts are acceptable.

"All polo style (knit) shirts and shirts with colors containing pictures or slogans that are provocative, offensive, sexual or suggestive in nature, vulgar, lewd or obscene are prohibited. Alcohol and tobacco pictures or slogans are also prohibited," according to the school district's dress code policy.

Pete's mom then brought him a red T-shirt and he returned to class.

The family said they had discussed Waxahachie's dress code during the summer and had been following a Vermont case in which a student was suspended for wearing an anti-Bush T-shirt to school. An appeals court upheld the student's rights and the Supreme Court rejected the school's appeal.

Pete said he did not intend to challenge the dress code that day until he got pulled aside for the black outfit. When his father asked about the Edwards shirt, Pete said, "There was an intention of challenging it at that point and seeing their reaction to it."

The school held a grievance hearing on the matter Oct. 3. In a letter to Pete's parents, Waxahachie High School Principal David Nix denied the family's assertion that Pete's First Amendment rights were being violated.

The letter said students "have a number of opportunities to express themselves through the wearing of buttons, jewelry or other symbols, forming a school-sponsored club, and speaking at limited public forum opportunities available during the day."

The principal also wrote that he was available to assist Pete with forming an approved club or organization such as "Waxahachie High School Students for Edwards."

"This would allow Pete the opportunity to express support for the political candidate of his choice through a school-sponsored organization," the letter said.

Palmer said his family has the opportunity to appeal the principal's decision and is trying to resolve the issue with the school district.

Comments

DotsLines 6 years, 6 months ago

provocative: serving or tending to provoke, excite, or stimulate; stimulating discussion or exciting controversy.

The school policy says pictures or statements that are provocative. It doesn't matter whether we think an Edwards T-shirt is provocative (although what's the point of political advertising if not to "stimulate discussion?"). It doesn't matter if we think wearing a shirt with a cross or "WWJD" on it has nothing wrong with it. If anyone is offended and it has the potential to turn into a heated disagreement (like it is in forums such as these), it is covered by the school policy.

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Tychoman 6 years, 6 months ago

Tangential, I liked your John Edward reference. Although were you referring to the guy who can speak to the dead or the Puritan?

I wonder if the school district read its own policy and found that a John Edwards '08 slogan in no way violates any of their posted dress code? This is going to be a short lawsuit which the district will not win.

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badger 6 years, 6 months ago

Who what in the where now?

This is just plain stupid. Also known as 'happening in or close to Dallas.'

$&$(%$& yuppies and their eighty-bazillion Starbuckses and their forty-level highways and their freaky building shaped like a lipstick.

Place hasn't been the same since JR got shot.

Policy's got no prohibition on politics, looks like. School's out of luck. They could ask him to take it off, but I don't know that they can punish him for violating school dress code policy if what he wore didn't violate the written policy.

Pfui. Dallas.

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perkins 6 years, 6 months ago

I guess the Tinker case of 1969 (black arm-bands to protest Vietnam War) has been overturned.

Let us pray our school administrators use their power and discretion wisely. Mom-of-three, keep us informed!

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DotsLines 6 years, 6 months ago

"But: isn't orange the new green."

Only to dogs.

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tangential_reasoners_anonymous 6 years, 6 months ago

"I... would never dream of wearing orange on St. Patrick's Day."

But... isn't orange the new green.

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DotsLines 6 years, 6 months ago

"I have yet to see how an Edwards shirt is any different than wearing any non-vulgar brand/team/organization on your shirt that may or may not offend someone."

The problem, logic, is you give others too much credit. Not everyone is as rational as you. Not everyone is as accepting, at least as open to hearing and respectfully discussing opposing points of view.

And how do you know that some of these people who rant on both ends of the political spectrum here on the LJW boards - aren't really high school kids?

There is another thread going on right now about students who are being told they can no longer wear confederate flags. I'm not comparing a John Edwards shirt to the confederate flag - but it's not my opinion that counts. Whether some symbol is considered "provocative" is truly in the eyes of the beholder, not the person wearing it. Some people may wear a confederate flag simply because it's a symbol of their heritage, the same way I - someone who far from considers himself a devout Catholic - would never dream of wearing orange on St. Patrick's Day. But that doesn't change the fact that people whose ancestors were those who suffered greatly under that flag may be strongly offended by the flag's display, regardless of why the person is wearing it. Something as inocuous or seemingly harmless as a cross or crucifix, even a Christmas tree, can be offensive to others who don't share the same beliefs, ideology - or even political orientation.

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logicsound04 6 years, 6 months ago

"Hitler was a political candidate."


The operative word being "was". After that he went onto be responsible for some pretty hanus stuff. It was all that stuff that caused support for Hitler to fall under the category of "offensive".

Nazi party symbols are offensive because the stand for racism and bigotry. The minute John Edwards starts calling for the extermination of an entire race, I will agree that the school had the right to make him remove the shirt. However, Edwards is just another Democrat blowhard who doesn't have a snowball's chance in hell of even getting the nomination. A shirt in support of his candidacy is no more offensive that wearing a Red Sox cap during the playoffs.

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"The school policy says pictures or statements that are "provocative" are not allowed, and political advocacy by it's very nature meets the definition'"


Then we disagree that political advocacy is inherently "provocative". When you have political advocacy in an environment such as the LJWorld forum, I would wholeheartedly agree that it is provacative and even inflammatory.

However, I believe there are forms of political advocacy that are dignified and respectful--as harmless as advocating for a charity. The letter to Pete's parents even mentioned that the kids are welcome to "to express themselves through the wearing of buttons, jewelry or other symbols, forming a school-sponsored club, and speaking at limited public forum opportunities available during the day".

Does that mean a John Edwards button or club would have been okay?

I have yet to see how an Edwards shirt is any different than wearing any non-vulgar brand/team/organization on your shirt that may or may not offend someone.

======================================

"Logic,

By your thinking, a kid on a field trip has a different set of rules with which to follow than someone at achool?"


No--as I mentioned, I was under the impression that the kid had skipped school and shown up to the torch running of his own accord.

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Tom Shewmon 6 years, 6 months ago

The more exposure Johnny Boy gets, the better. Bring it on!

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Tristan Moody 6 years, 6 months ago

Did anyone notice that they also don't allow polo shirts? WTF?! Polo shirts are REQUIRED in some schools!

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DotsLines 6 years, 6 months ago

oldgranny (Anonymous) says:

Do I need to spell out the problem for you? TEXAS. And Dallas in particular. I know. I used to live there. They are not kidding when they say "Texas a Whole Other Country". Whacko country. The kid is probably lucky he didn't get beat up.


Which is exactly why it was justified to ask him to remove the shirt.

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oldgranny 6 years, 6 months ago

Do I need to spell out the problem for you? TEXAS. And Dallas in particular. I know. I used to live there. They are not kidding when they say "Texas a Whole Other Country". Whacko country. The kid is probably lucky he didn't get beat up.

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imastinker 6 years, 6 months ago

Logic,

By your thinking, a kid on a field trip has a different set of rules with which to follow than someone at achool?

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blue73harley 6 years, 6 months ago

Well, I knew this oppression would happen when Kinky was not elected governor.

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DotsLines 6 years, 6 months ago

logicsound04 says:

Apples and oranges. The kid was showing support for a political candidate on his clothing, not making threats on a privelege-based message board.

Unless the school has specific lingo banning support for political candidates, they have no legs to stand on.


Ask any bartender and they'll tell you that the two topics that should always remain off-limits for conversation in a bar are religion and politics. You don't have to spend much time in these forums to see that political discourse has a tendency to become heated and generally lead to personal attacks ("How could you be that stupid to support that candidate?").

The school policy says pictures or statements that are "provocative" are not allowed, and political advocacy by it's very nature meets the definition, "serving or tending to provoke, excite, or stimulate; stimulating discussion or exciting controversy."

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kugrad 6 years, 6 months ago

You can't wear all black in this district? Why? Is "Goth" disruptive to the school? This article details evidence of how far our rights have slipped away. They don't take the big rights away, they chip away at them setting small precedents. 30 years ago, this case would never have happened. The school district would have been laughed out of court and all would have been well. There are legitimate restrictions on free speech/expression, but there is no clear and present danger to wearing an Edwards shirt. The line isn't that blurry. This is ridiculous. Free speech rights and the NEED for free speech and personal expression rights to prevail over unnecessary restrictions has not changed. Dallas sucks.

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Haiku_Cuckoo 6 years, 6 months ago

Apples and oranges. The kid was showing support for a political candidate on his clothing, not making threats on a privelege-based message board.

Unless the school has specific lingo banning support for political candidates, they have no legs to stand on.

Hitler was a political candidate. Should kids be allowed to wear shirts or arm bands with Nazi party symbols?

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logicsound04 6 years, 6 months ago

"Beats me. Why don't you post a death threat against a public official here and see if anything happens."


Apples and oranges. The kid was showing support for a political candidate on his clothing, not making threats on a privelege-based message board.

Unless the school has specific lingo banning support for political candidates, they have no legs to stand on.

========================================

I was under the distinct impression that "bong hits" guy did not attend school that day.

Even if he did, his free speech should not be restricted (on the basis of him promoting a pro-drug message in school) when he is not at school.

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imastinker 6 years, 6 months ago

Wikipedia says that the "bong hits 4 jesus" guy was late that day. They didn't say absent. The majority opinion says nothing about an absence from school.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Morse_v.... http://www.scotusblog.com/movabletype/archives/06-278_All.pdf

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imastinker 6 years, 6 months ago

So you think schools should allow gang colors in inner city schools too?

I think that schools need to enforce dress codes. If this T shirt was causing a big fuss that got in the way of learning, it shouldn't be there. It's no different than me walking in to work with a shirt that causes a commotion for some reason and my boss telling me to take it off. Is that a free speech issue?

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Haiku_Cuckoo 6 years, 6 months ago

Since when can the court restrict free speech rights based on the content of the message?

Beats me. Why don't you post a death threat against a public official here and see if anything happens.

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blue73harley 6 years, 6 months ago

Political shirts should be okay as long as they don't have Hillary's picture on them. That has been known to scare small children and can cause male impotence.

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logicsound04 6 years, 6 months ago

The "bong hits" guy, as immature as his message was, SHOULDN'T have lost. The Court overstepped its authority.

The day in question, he had skipped school (a violation in and of itself), and was not part of the "school function" of watching the Olympic torch ride through town. He was there of his own voilition--not on a school field trip. The only disciplinary right the school should've had was to punish the kid for skipping school. His poster should've been off-limits.

The majority decision ruled that he had no right to expression because his message was one of "pro drugs". Since when can the court restrict free speech rights based on the content of the message?

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Haiku_Cuckoo 6 years, 6 months ago

Actually, it has been shown many times that students first amendment rights can be curtailed at school.

Remember the "bong hits 4 jesus guy?"

He lost.

True. Same thing happened in Illinois when a kid got in trouble for wearing a shirt that said "Be Happy, Not Gay". Personally, I think a school should be allowed to enforce a dress code.

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imastinker 6 years, 6 months ago

Actually, it has been shown many times that students first amendment rights can be curtailed at school.

Remember the "bong hits 4 jesus guy?"

He lost.

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b3 6 years, 6 months ago

If that was my kid i would ground him for at least a month.

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Agnostick 6 years, 6 months ago

As a native Texan, I'd have to say that nomansland might have a point, in that if it was a Republican candidate's t-shirt, nothing would've been said.

My first thought on this? This is about a boy being "used" by his parents to push a candidate or agenda. If this was a kid who was either 18 years old now, or going to be 18 on Election Day, it'd be easier for me to believe that wearing the Edwards shirt was his own idea, not someone else's.

I don't like the idea of abortion protestors dragging their toddlers and babies out into the hot sun to stand on the sidewalk in front of an abortion clinic... and I don't like this, either.

Agnostick agnostick@excite.com http://www.uscentrist.org http://www.americanplan.org

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logicsound04 6 years, 6 months ago

"The letter said students "have a number of opportunities to express themselves through the wearing of buttons, jewelry or other symbols, forming a school-sponsored club, and speaking at limited public forum opportunities available during the day.""


So when the political support is on a button on your shirt, it's okay, but when it is grafted right onto the shirt itself, it becomes a violation?

Right.

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americorps 6 years, 6 months ago

This school better give in or be prepared to was a lot of tax dollars on defending a lawsuit they can not hope to win.

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nomansland 6 years, 6 months ago

just what I'd expect from Texas. I'm sure if it was a Republican candidate it they wouldn't of said anything.

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Centrist 6 years, 6 months ago

They do NOT have a "no-politics" T-shirt policy, and that will do them in.

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Ragingbear 6 years, 6 months ago

This was news...two weeks ago when it happened.

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