Ark. students allowed to resume dress-code protest

By The Associated Press
10.22.06

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — A federal judge has issued a temporary injunction that allows students in the Watson Chapel School District to wear black armbands without fear of reprisal in protest of the school’s dress code.

U.S. District Judge Leon Holmes issued the injunction on Oct. 19.

The lawsuit, filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas on behalf of three students, asks that any disciplinary measures against the three be halted.

In his injunction, Holmes said the Watson Chapel case was similar to one the U.S. Supreme Court decided in 1969. In that case, Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District, the Court ruled that school officials couldn’t bar students from wearing black armbands in protest of the Vietnam War.

On Oct. 6, some students wore small black armbands to school, protesting a new, more restrictive dress code. About 20 students were suspended from school for a day over the protest.

Mike Dennis, an attorney representing the district, said a temporary injunction would allow teens to further violate the uniform policy.

“An injunction would bring substantial harm to Watson Chapel School District as undermining the authority of the board and the district to take disciplinary action for what it considers a serious violation of school policy,” the district’s attorneys wrote in a brief filed before the hearing. “Administrators will be undermined in their ability to enforce school policy.”

The new dress code specifies shirt colors and the numbers of buttons and pockets. Students at the high school must wear khaki pants with belt loops and a white polo-style shirt with two or three buttons. Students also must wear identification badges.