First Amendment topicsAbout the First Amendment
News Story
 
print this   Print

Teen suspended for wearing 'freedom of expression' T-shirt

By The Associated Press
05.09.05

TIFTON, Ga. — A teenager was back in class on May 6 after receiving a one-day suspension for wearing a T-shirt with slogans including “freedom of expression” and “don’t drink and drive” that school administrators considered disruptive.

Hanna Smith, 18, a junior at Tift County High School, said Principal Mike Duck told her that if she wore the shirt again she would be suspended for the remainder of the year.

The principal was arrested six years ago for DUI and running a stop sign, The Tifton Gazette said May 6 in a story on Smith’s suspension. Duck made a public apology for the DUI and was himself suspended for five days.

Smith’s mother, Tracy Fletcher, said she would defend her daughter’s right to express herself, even if it meant hiring an attorney and taking the case to court.

“They want everyone to fit into a mold, and there’s no room for individuality. These kids are our future, I think they should be treated with a little more respect. Their opinions count. Their thoughts count,” Fletcher said.

The principal confirmed that Smith was back in class on May 6 without the banned T-shirt, which also had a peace symbol on the front and “Veritas,” which means truth, written on the back.

On May 6, Smith wore a different T-shirt, this one reading “Don’t Underestimate Individuality,” her mother said. The first letters of those words spell “DUI.” Her mother said the teen planned to wear the banned T-shirt again today.

Duck said he could not comment on the suspension.

“We can’t discuss children and their issue,” he said. “It’s a matter of privacy and protection of their rights.”

The school system’s dress code forbids disruptive clothing, grooming and symbols. Principals decide what’s disruptive.

“I have an obligation to maintain an orderly environment,” Duck said. “The courts give me the authority and the right to make those decisions and as long as I’m sitting in this chair that’s what I’m going to do.”

There have been other recent controversies in the school over students’ T-shirts, the Gazette reported. In one instance, a student was asked to change or be suspended for wearing a shirt bearing an anarchy symbol. In response, 40 students, including Smith, came to school the next day wearing shirts bearing various “freedom” slogans, the newspaper said.

Smith said she learned about constitutional rights, such as freedom of expression, in class and wishes school officials would honor them.

“I think it’s silly that we can’t practice the freedoms that they teach us here,” Smith said. “You would think that school officials would have respect for the law and people’s rights, or at least they should.”


Related

Two students suspended for donning 'vagina' T-shirts

Minnesota high schoolers were sent home after breaking week-old rule against wearing Vagina Monologues-inspired attire inside school. 05.04.05

Hassled 'heckler' gets OK to wear T-shirt to games

Nebraska administrators allow graduate of Beatrice High to attend basketball games after he contacts ACLU. 03.04.06

La. high school bans 'Free the Jena 6' T-shirts
Administrators say disruption caused by shirts supporting six black students accused of beating white schoolmate — not the shirts themselves — was reason for ban. 08.30.07

Clothing, dress codes & uniforms

News summary page
View the latest news stories throughout the First Amendment Center Online.



Last system update: Monday, February 8, 2010 | 20:32:03
 SEARCH  MORE
About this site
About the First Amendment
About the First Amendment Center
How to contribute
Video/RSS/podcasts
First Amendment programs
State of the First Amendment
reports

Religious liberty in public schools
First Reports
Supreme Court
Columnists
Experts
First Amendment publications
First Amendment Center history
Glossary
Freedom Sings™
Events
First Amendment
Schools

Congressional Research Service reports
Guest editorials
FOI material
The First Amendment
Library

Lesson plans
freedomforum.org
Newseum
Contact us
Privacy statement
Related links