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A T-shirt with a slogan like this bumper sticker has caused trouble for a student in Pennsylvania
A judge has issued a split opinion in a school speech code dispute in Pennsylvania, banning a student from wearing an anti-terrorism T-shirt because it “promotes illegal behavior” but striking other school restrictions on dress and speech as unconstitutionally overbroad.
“Volunteer Homeland Security” and “Special issue – Resident – Lifetime License United States Terrorist Hunting Permit – Permit No. 91101 Gun Owner – No Bag Limit”
The shirt also had a silk-screened image of a handgun silhouette.
“It’s the district’s position the wording on the T-shirt advocated violation of the law and acts of violence,” Superintendent. Donald Stewart told WND.
Now, according to a report from the Student Press Law Center, U.S. District Judge James K. Gardner has determined the T-shirt “promotes illegal behavior” and therefore can be banned.
Gardner applied to the T-shirt case a precedent set in Morse v. Frederick, a case in which it was decided that school officials could censor student statements “reasonably viewed as promoting illegal drug use.”
Based on that decision, “speech that promotes illegal behavior may also be restricted,” the judge.
He specifically said the T-shirt was not “political speech.”
But Gardner also found that the school’s handbook warning about articles of clothing that are “a distraction to the educational environment” was unconstitutional because it was too vague, the law center report said.
And a policy that banned speech that seeks to “establish the supremacy of a particular religious denomination, sect or point of view” also was unconstitutionally overbroad.
Miller’s attorneys had not yet announced whether there would be an appeal.
His representative, Leonard G. Brown III of Clymer & Musser, P.C., told WND earlier that Miller just wanted to wear a message in support of his uncle, who is serving in Iraq.
“The T-shirt in question was purchased at the PX (Post Exchange) at Fort Benning, Ga., and was a gift to Donald before the uncle’s deployment to Iraq,” said the complaint. “His uncle is currently in Iraq and serving on the front line in the war against terror helping to build a democratic society and eliminate America’s enemies.”
Miller “wears the T-shirt to make the political and emotional statements that he supports his uncle, and all our armed forces, as they bravely exercise their duty to defend this great nation,” according to the lawsuit.
He said the T-shirt did not advocate anything illegal. The U.S. itself, he noted, is in the process of hunting down terrorists, and in fact has offered rewards of millions of dollars for the apprehension of some of the most dangerous, including al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden.
“[Miller] openly and proudly identifies himself as a patriotic American who supports America’s military,” the lawsuit said. “He believes that it is the duty of every American to protect this country and do what they can to honor and support our brave service men and women.
Miller “further believes that he has the right to speak up and express his support for the Department of Homeland Security and to convince others of the need to defeat the terrorists who seek to harm America,” it continued.
The lawsuit said Miller “fears that defendants will continue to censor and threaten punishment against him simply for expressing his political beliefs and engaging in symbolic activities reflecting those beliefs.”
WND also previously reported a student was threatened with a three-day suspension for bringing to campus and using a pen with the corporate logo of the Glock company, a large stylized “G” with the letters “lock” inside.
The father reported he was successful in convincing school officials to withdraw not only the threat but the formal reprimand that had been placed in his son’s educational file.
WND also reported a student’s punishment for advocating gun rights.