Student gets go-ahead to don anti-Bush T-shirt

By The Associated Press
10.03.03

DETROIT — A high school student has the right to wear a T-shirt to school with the face of President Bush and the words “International Terrorist” on the front, a federal judge has ruled.

“There is no evidence that the T-shirt created any disturbance or disruption,” U.S. District Judge Patrick J. Duggan said in the ruling released Oct. 1 by the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan, which sued the Dearborn school district on behalf of Bretton Barber.

An assistant principal had ordered Barber in February to conceal the anti-Bush message or go home. Dearborn High said it worried about inflaming passions at the suburban Detroit school, where a majority of students are Arab-American.

But, the judge said in granting the ACLU’s request for a preliminary injunction, “The record does not reveal any basis for (the assistant principal’s) fear aside from his belief that the T-shirt conveyed an unpopular political message.”

Attorneys for the school district declined to comment on the case. There was no answer at the district offices.

“The court’s decision reaffirms the principle that students don’t give up their right to express opinions on matters of public importance once they enter school,” Kary Moss, executive director of the state ACLU, said in a news release. “Schools are not speech-free zones.”

Barber was 16 when he wore the shirt on a day he was scheduled to present a “compare and contrast” essay in English class. Barber had chosen to compare President Bush to former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

At the time, Bretton said he wanted to express his anti-war position by wearing the shirt, which he ordered on the Internet.