A standard dress code violation may end up costing a West Virginia 14-year-old up to a year behind bars and $500 -- all because he refused to change out of a t-shirt which displayed a rifle and the National Rifle Association logo underneath the all-caps phrase "PROTECT YOUR RIGHT" in April.
So how does "You need to change your shirt" turn into "You have the right to remain silent?" According to reports which cite police documents, then-eighth-grader Jared Marcum became confrontational after a teacher approached him during lunchtime and told him the shirt violated the dress code. He was reportedly asked several times to change into something else, but instead talked about the First Amendment and became disruptive to other students. The First Amendment includes the right to freedom of speech.
Logan City police have not responded to HLN's request for comment, but police Chief E.K. Harper told ABC News that Marcum's "conduct in school almost incited a riot." When a police officer showed up at Logan Middle School, Marcum would not stop talking, which prevented the officer from doing his job, according to WOWK. On Monday, the teenager was formally charged with obstructing an officer.
Ben White, Marcum's attorney, told ABC, "He wore [the shirt] as an expression of political speech and the need to protect the Second Amendment." The Second Amendment protects the right to keep and bear arms. However, the real legal issue at this point isn't so much the content of the shirt which sparked the incident, as it is the student's actions once confronted by school officials and police.
White doesn't think there's anything there either, telling WTRF, "Jared didn't do anything, in my view of the facts, that obstructed Officer [James] Adkins in doing his job."
The Logan County Schools dress code says that "If in the judgment of the administration, a student is dressed inappropriately, the student will be required to change clothes or cover up inappropriate clothing before returning to classes." The 14-year-old was suspended from school for one day.
However, according to WOWK, Allen Lardieri, Marcum's father, says he still doesn't "see how anybody would have an issue with a hunting rifle and 'NRA' put on a t-shirt, especially when policy doesn't forbid it."
Standing outside the Logan County courthouse with his son by his side, Lardieri told WTRF, "Eventually I think we're going to get through this. But I don’t think it ever should have made it this far."
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