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Political opinion deemed "inappropriate" for school

Thirteen-year-old Stephen Truszkowski wore a white T-shirt to Everett Meredith Middle School in Middletown, Delaware. Hand-written on the front was "The Real Terrorist Is In The White House" and on the back "End the Tyranny." The situation is described in an article in the News Journal [via Dave Farber's IP list]:

School officials told him the shirt was inappropriate and if he didn't cover it up, he would be suspended....

Truszkowski covered it up, like he did earlier in the week when he wore the shirt to school, as well as another time two weeks ago. But this time, he confronted the principal with a copy of the school dress code in hand.

"I told him that based on the school code, he had no right to tell me to cover it up," he said. He said the shirt does not violate the school's dress code because it's not profane or violent.

The teen feels the school is infringing on his first amendment right to free speech.

"I think they violated my rights because I wore the shirt to express my opinion, that we shouldn't have gone to war," Truszkowski said. "I'm not saying I don't respect the soldiers, but I think what Bush is doing is inappropriate."

The school's principal, Claude McAllister, did not return calls for comment.

According to the Delaware Code, the school board of each public school district has the authority to establish and enforce a dress code to "promote an orderly, disciplined school environment and to encourage uniformity of student dress."

Student apparel that is distracting, hinders the educational process or "advertises, glorifies or symbolizes any illegal substances, contains derogatory phrases, profanity or glorifies violence or criminal behavior" is not permitted to be worn, according to the Appoquinimink School District dress code. Other Delaware school districts have similar dress codes.

I don't like the ease with which the term terrorist is used to describe anyone or any organization we disagree with or don't like. I wish Mr Truszkowski had stuck to the issue of his First Amendment right to free speech and not dragged the dress code in to cloud the matter. But I fully support his right to wear such a shirt in public, and that includes in public schools.

My nephew, Diccon Hyatt, is a reporter for the Middletown Transcript, the hometown paper where these events took place. At the time of my original post, his coverage of this story was not online, but it is now. Good job, Diccon!

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