CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — A West Virginia student was charged with causing a disruption at a middle school when he refused to remove a T-shirt that displayed the National Rifle Association’s logo and hunting rifle.
Jared Marcum, 14, said the shirt did not violate Logan Middle School’s dress code policy.
“I was surprised. It shocked me that the school didn’t know their own dress code and their own policy. I figured they would have known not to call me out on that shirt because there was nothing wrong with it,” Marcum said in a telephone interview.
Marcum’s stepfather, Allen Lardieri, said the youth was waiting in line in the school cafeteria Thursday when a teacher ordered the eighth-grader to remove the T-shirt or to turn it inside out.
Marcum said was sent to the office where he again refused the order.
“When the police came, I was still talking and telling them that this was wrong, that they cannot do this, it’s not against any school policy. The officer, he told me to sit down and be quiet. I said, ‘No, I’m exercising my right to free speech.’ I said it calmly,” he said.
Police charged him with disrupting an educational process and obstructing an officer, he said.
“The only disturbance was caused by the teacher. He raised his voice,” he said.
The Associated Press typically does not identify juveniles charged with crimes, but Marcum and his family wanted his name and case known.
A call to the Logan Police Department rang unanswered on Sunday and an automated message said the voice mail system was full.
Lardieri said Marcum wore the shirt during five class periods before he was ordered to remove it.
Logan County Schools’ dress code, which is posted on the school system’s website, prohibits clothing and accessories that display profanity, violence, discriminatory messages or sexually suggestive phrases. Clothing displaying advertisements for any alcohol, tobacco, or drug product also is prohibited.
Their lawyer, Ben White, said that the T-shirt did not appear to violate any school policy.
“I just don’t understand why this teacher reacted the way he did,” said White, who said he asked school officials to preserve surveillance video of the cafeteria.
White said he planned to meet Monday with Principal Ernestine Sutherland.
A message left Sunday at a phone listing for an Ernestine Sutherland in Logan wasn’t immediately returned.
White said schools can place restrictions on students to prevent disruptions, but can’t take away their First Amendment right to free speech.
“If a teacher is telling you to do something that’s wrong, I don’t think you should follow it. But I also don’t think you need to do it in a disrespectful way,” he said, adding that he does not think Marcum was disrespectful.
White said he also wants to get the criminal charges dropped.