California High School Blocks NRA T-Shirt Because It Depicts a Weapon

[UPDATE: The school has backed down, see below.]

So reports CBS Los Angeles:

Sophomore Haley Bullwinkle said when she wore her NRA shirt to Canyon High School last month, she landed in the principal’s office for violating the school’s dress code that forbids offensive, violent or divisive clothing….

The shirt … features a buck, an American flag and a hunter’s silhouette. It also has the words “National Rifle Association of America: Protecting America’s Traditions Since 1871” written in the center….

Principal Kimberly Fricker [wrote] in an email [to Bullwinkle’s father that], “The shirt had a gun on it, which is not allowed by school police. It’s protocol to have students change when they’re in violation of the dress code.”

But this policy (which does indeed ban all depiction of, among other things, “violence” and “weapons”) is unconstitutional, even under the relaxed First Amendment standards applicable in government-run K-12 schools. As Newsom ex rel. Newsom v. Albemarle County School Bd. (4th Cir. 2003) held in a very similar case. And it’s also illegal under California’s Leonard Law, a state statute that provides high school students with even broader protection than does the First Amendment.

For a similar story from earlier this year, see here.

UPDATE: The NRA reports (thanks to commenter D. Laden for the pointer) that the school has apologized:

Sent on behalf of Michael L. Christensen, Superintendent of Schools, Orange Unified School District:

Response to Canyon High School NRA Shirt Incident

Canyon High School has a policy prohibiting clothing depicting or promoting violence. In this incident, a student was referred to the counseling office by a security officer because she was wearing a shirt with a logo that included a rifle. The student was instructed by a staff member to change her shirt and was provided another shirt to wear.

The parents contacted the principal a week after the incident to express concern. At that time, the principal was unaware of the incident and provided an initial response regarding the school policy on clothing that depicts violence. After reviewing pictures of the shirt, the principal determined that the shirt logo does not promote violence.

The family was contacted and advised that wearing the shirt was not contrary to the school dress code policy and the student will be permitted to wear the shirt. The student and family received an apology and assurance that training will be provided to staff so an incident like this does not occur again.

Note that the school policy does ban depiction of “weapons,” not just “violence,” but the school district has apparently decided not to enforce that.

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