If you're local to Chicago, you might have been following the story of a suburban boy who was suspended last week from Hinsdale Central High School for wearing a t-shirt with an image of an AK-47 on it. As reported by Annemarie Mannion in the Chicago Tribune, the student in question wore the t-shirt pictured below and was stopped by hall monitors because of its provocative nature.
The dean of students then gave him three options: 1) remove the t-shirt; 2) turn the t-shirt inside out; or 3) go home for the day and be marked with a suspension. The boy opted for the third option and was sent home.
Today, the boy appealed his suspension to the Hinsdale School Board, arguing his first amendment rights were violated. The Board then reversed the dean's original suspension and it will be removed from the boy's PERMANENT RECORD. You all remember the threat of something landing on your PERMANENT RECORD, right?
So much of this story disturbs me, I don't quite know where to start, but let's do this.
- Guns have no place in our schools. I don't know what else to say about this. Guns and schools do not mix. End of story.
- First amendment, schmirst schmendment. This kid went in front of the School Board to assert that his first amendment rights were being violated. "I decided to go home for the day because I felt it was a infringement of my First Amendment right to freedom of expression," he told the board. What, exactly, was this student attempting to express by wearing the inflammatory image of an AK-47 on his t-shirt? The AK-47 is an assault rifle, an Avtomat Kalashnikova, first manufactured in World War II Russia for the sole purpose of killing in a military combat setting. Not hunting. Not providing food for family. Not for sport. Solely for killing human beings in a more efficient manner. Do you know how many results will be found if you Google "school shootings with AK-47"? 1,650,000. If this student could articulate what exactly he was attempting to express, not whine that his rights were being violated, I would want to hear it, but I am fairly certain I would strongly disagree with any POV that advocates for personal use of an AK-47.
- Discipline must be consistent. Hinsdale Central's school dean is who first meted out the suspension on the grounds that the provocative t-shirt, and yes, the image of an assault rifle is provocative, most especially in a school setting, violated the school's dress code policy. Per the Tribune, "The handbook states that students are subject to disciplinary action when they wear clothing that 'is deemed vulgar, inappropriate, unsafe or disruptive to the educational process (e.g., advertising/display of alcohol, drugs, tobacco, sexual innuendo).'" The dean determined that an AK-47 depicted on a t-shirt in the school environment was indeed inappropriate and disruptive, correctly, I believe. The school superintendent originally agreed with the dean's actions, stating that schools maintain the right to prevent school children from wearing offensive clothing. Today, the board reversed the suspension. Kid wins. Hooray for AK-47s being glamorized in schools everywhere! Parenting 101 mandates that when a punishment is handed out, a punishment is handed out. The best and easiest way to create chaos for children is to provide inconsistency in their parenting and discipline. If an assault rifle on a t-shirt is found to be disruptive to the educational process, then it is disruptive to the educational process. My writing this blog post is evidence of that -- it is front page news in Chicago. Send a message to our children that discipline is discipline. Be consistent. Stand by your dean and common sense.
- Guns have no place in our schools. Again, this is self-explanatory.
- Stop confusing the issue of guns. After reversing their decision to suspend the boy, the superintendent today said that school personnel will, moving forward, attempt to distinguish between lawful images of guns that do not promote violence and other images that do promote violence. Huh. Last I checked, all guns promoted violence. I mean, that's kind of the whole point, right? Guns are made to harm and/or kill. All guns. It just is the nature of the beast, no getting around it. What the Hinsdale School Board did with their reversal today was confuse a pretty straight forward issue -- guns have no place in our schools. By opening the door to this idea of gun clubs being harmless entities when those same clubs use the deadly image of an AK-47 with the lingo, "Team AK," well, they are sending an extremely confusing message to their student body and loads of headaches for their staff.
- Guns have no place in our schools.
I make no bones about where I stand on the gun issue. In our beloved Constitution of these United States of America, the Second Amendment guarantees the right of its citizens to bear arms. I get it, I will not argue with that, own a gun, as it is your right. But times have changed, folks, and we have become a gun loving society that embraces its guns beyond any stretch of common sense.
This child, an 18 year old Eagle Scout for cripes sake, believes he has the right to express himself in a school environment by wearing the image of a deadly weapon used expressly for the purposes of killing human beings more efficiently. What he is trying to express is beyond my peace loving comprehension, I know, but for the life of me, I cannot understand why the Hinsdale School Board would kowtow to the feeble arguments about expression when children across America are being gunned down in classrooms.
It is simple, Hinsdale School Board. Set an example. Structure a school environment that does not tolerate the glamorization or romanticization of guns in any instance. Be consistent with the message. Educate instead of placate. Guns have no place in our schools. Period. Class dismissed.