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Teen challenges dress code after suspension for gun T-shirt

By The Associated Press

FORT WAYNE, Ind. — A high school sophomore has sued the Fort Wayne Community Schools over its dress code, saying he was suspended for wearing a T-shirt bearing the likeness of an M-16 rifle and the text of the Marine Corps creed.

The lawsuit filed last week in U.S. District Court by Nathan Griggs, 16, and his father, David, asks the court to bar the school district from enforcing what they call the offending provisions of the dress code.

The lawsuit contends the dress code is overly broad and prohibits what it calls clearly protected speech such as the text on the T-shirt. The code is so strict, the lawsuit states, that it would prevent a student from wearing a shirt featuring the city of Fort Wayne seal because that seal includes a sword.

Deborah Morgan, a spokeswoman for the school district, said earlier this week that the district did not comment on pending lawsuits.

According to the lawsuit, Nathan Griggs wore the T-shirt to Elmhurst High School in March 2003 and was told by an official he would be disciplined if he wore it again. The lawsuit said Griggs believed the shirt was protected under the First Amendment and wore it again the next day.

The lawsuit states that Elmhurst's principal then ordered the teen to serve an in-school suspension and told him he would be given an out-of-school suspension if he wore it again. The principal, according to the suit, told David Griggs the shirt was "inappropriate for the school setting."

The creed, written by a Marine Corps general after the attack on Pearl Harbor, focuses on the relationship between a Marine and his or her rifle, and is also known as "My Rifle."

The Griggs' lawsuit is being supported by the conservative Rutherford Institute of Charlottesville, Va., The News-Sentinel reported.

Indiana teen wins M-16 T-shirt case
Nelson Griggs' shirt with rifle image, Marine creed 'has no relation to the (school) board's legitimate concerns about school violence, nor is it likely to disrupt the educational process,' federal judge rules. 03.14.05


4th Circuit halts enforcement of Virginia school's dress code

Three-judge panel sides with boy and NRA, saying that policy — which prohibits clothing that depicts weapons — is likely to be found unconstitutional. 12.02.03

School relents on teen's anti-abortion sweatshirt
After threat of legal action, Newport News, Va., high school says Daniel Goergen can wear sweatshirt that says, 'Abortion is homicide.' 03.23.04

Court sides with school on student's T-shirt
But in ruling school had right to make student cover images of drugs and booze, judge also says words are protected and that disciplinary action should be removed from student's record. 12.28.04

Clothing, dress codes & uniforms

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