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Student Suspended for Anti-Obama T-shirt — Free Speech?

A fifth grader from Colorado wore a homemade T-shirt — that said: "Obama is a terrorist's best friend" — just long enough to get suspended from school. On a day when students wore red, white, and blue to show patriotism, the 11-year-old son of a "proud conservative" decided to show his political opinion, too. The school told the boy to change shirts, turn it inside out, or face suspension. He chose suspension.

The school, which won't discuss the case specifically, says it respects a student's right to wear specific clothing, but looks into cases that might disrupt the learning environment. The father, who most likely predicted that the school would ask his son to remove the shirt, has plans to bring a lawsuit on the basis of free speech. Who do you think should win?


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gaulearnedimp gaulearnedimp 8 years
While I think the child should have the right to wear such a shirt, his school also has the right to ask him to remove it. Schools have specific dress codes. The courts should rule in the school's favor. However, I think that politically controversial messages might be provocative right now and could help to produce a more open dialog. There aren't enough open forums for children to discuss and debate issues in school, so they don't learn to debate or think about information they're given in a critical way. Our school system feeds information to children as if it's trying to write that information on a blackboard.
ThePerfectScore ThePerfectScore 8 years
I honestly doubt that kid is politically astute enough to know where McCain let alone Obama really stand on issues. Like with most kids he is supporting his parent opinion, no matter how ignorant they maybe. That shirt was offensive and "freedom of Speech" as with every other freedom is not totally free and must adhere to social norms. So I'm glad the school took action.
Antibully Antibully 8 years
What happened when you give your children too much freedom? Make a guess. Sometimes adults also do not know how to handle it in a socially responsible way. We need regulations and rules. What happened to Wall Street? Too little regulations and accountability! We are all paying for it with unemployment, risk of losing our homes, sleepless nights. Wearing a T- Shirt like this can be interpreted as racism even though that MIGHT not be the agenda. It takes wisdom to exercise your freedom. Fights are broken out because of our thoughtless words and actions. Maybe this is an indication of personality disorder!
Antibully Antibully 8 years
I think the school authority definitely make the right decision of suspending that student who wore an anti Obama t-shirt. Everybody has their freedom of speech but if your words or actions is hurting your "neighbor." Then, it is abuse!
guffaw620 guffaw620 8 years
The first thing we're supposed to teach our kids in school is that it is a "safe place" for them. There is such an amazing diversity of students that you have to have guidelines and rules to establish that "safe place" so you can teach each and every one of them. Everyone is going to have a different view and opinion on practically everything, but those opinions should be expressed so long as it complies with keeping the school that safe place. That said, schools have the right to create and enforce dress codes that keep the school a safe place. This means the clothing students wear should not distract themselves and other students from learning. This school was within their rights of enforcing the dress code by telling the student to change his shirt. It was most definitely used as a statement to cause distraction and controversy--the exact thing that goes against the "safe place" the school is trying to create. I don't believe for a minute that the school was infringing on the student's freedom of speech (or was it really his dad's...?).
Michelann Michelann 8 years
I think the problems come when they search your cars and backpacks.
UnDave35 UnDave35 8 years
You are correct running, but since the school is a public place, and not your personal property...
runningesq runningesq 8 years
To all of you who think that children have the same civil liberties as adults: you are wrong. The government could not randomly come into your house to make sure you aren't dealing drugs/ hiding dead bodies in your basement --- they need a warrant. However, in public school, the government is permitted to conduct random locker searches.
kastarte2 kastarte2 8 years
Exactly, UnDave.
UnDave35 UnDave35 8 years
This isn't really about freedom of speech. It's about attention. IMO, the dad was feeling a little un-something, and needed more attention, so he sent his son to school in a shirt that was inapropriate, to cause a disturbance. That way, he could then go after the school for punishing his kid.
lexichloe lexichloe 8 years
FREEDOM OF SPEECH IS FREEDOM OF SPEECH...YES, CHILDREN ARE BORN WITH THAT RIGHT AS WELL, even more so that adults...he's being crucified? Ridiculous.
liliblu liliblu 8 years
Almost all the schools I sub at have the students wear uniforms except for Fridays.
pmlayden pmlayden 8 years
I am ALL FOR freedom of speech and expression, but as a teacher, I think it's okay to have a few rules about clothing on the children and the staff, especially in an elementary school. I have seen parents sent their children to school in VERY inappropriate shirts; naked women, beer ads, swear words, etc... and it is our job to make sure things like that don't enter the learning area.
dreamsugar dreamsugar 8 years
Sorry Michelin -- you weren't specific -- so I saw an in :P
UnDave35 UnDave35 8 years
When I was in school, shorts and skirts weren't allowed. We had a school debate with the principal, and the student council moderated. The principal said that anyone with shorts would be sent home and suspended for three days. The funny part about that is one of the girls on council was wearing very short shorts, and he didn't even notice.
ohbaby7 ohbaby7 8 years
free speech is one thing, but wearing a shirt like that around elementary school students is dangerous and irresponsible, as they could easily believe the shirt
Michelann Michelann 8 years
Dream, I was talking more about the parent's choice, and not the child's.
dreamsugar dreamsugar 8 years
I don't think the shirt is unpatriotic -- I just don't think it's patriotic as the term is defined. How is the shirt patriotic? Patriotism is commonly defined as love of and/or devotion to one's country. The shirt is political yes - patriotic as it is defined - No. Freedom of speech -- yes. Use your kids as tool to push your agenda - priceless. And when I mentioned 5 year olds -- you stated that a person shouldn't be made to go to school if they don't want to -- that would go for those in grade k and up.
Michelann Michelann 8 years
Why is the shirt unpatriotic?
DukesUp DukesUp 8 years
Way to live up to your conservative stereotype. That poor kid sounds like he was force fed these lines to read! His father got him all riled up to wear this shirt, to disobey his teachers, and that it's okay to get suspended! What a loser! No wonder this country is going down the drain, people can't rise up and make good and civil choices, or respect each other, and now were raising our kids to make the same bad choices! Obviously this was totally pre-meditated on the fathers part by letting him wear something like that on a day they were supposed to wear something PATRIOTIC. That shirt is totally unpatriotic, and he's blind if he can't recognize that.
kristyrk kristyrk 8 years
Seems like this fifth grader is being used as a pawn. Shame on the "proud conservative" father for teaching his son to disrespect other people.
kastarte2 kastarte2 8 years
I don't think he will win. Pretty sure schools have the right to impose a dress code.
Jude-C Jude-C 8 years
Who wants to bet on whether the father will win or lose in court?
kastarte2 kastarte2 8 years
If my school could tell me I wasn't allowed to wear tank tops, than surely they can tell this kid his shirt was inappropriate, too. When you enter an institution like a school, you are agreeing to follow their rules. Plus, questionable parenting to use your 11 year old child as a billboard for your political beliefs.
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