A West Virginia middle school student was arrested last Thursday after refusing to remove a T-shirt emblazoned with the National Rifle Association’s logo and a rifle.
Jared Marcum, a 14-year-old student at Logan Middle School insists that his NRA T-shirt does not violate the school’s dress code, The Associated Press reports.
"I was surprised. It shocked me that the school didn't know their own dress code and their own policy. I figured they would have known not to call me out on that shirt because there was nothing wrong with it," Marcum told AP.
According to Marcum’s stepfather, Allen Lardieri, the teenager was standing in the school’s cafeteria line when a teacher told him that he had to either remove the NRA T-shirt or turn it inside out. When Marcum refused, he was sent to the principal’s office, AP reports.
"When the police came, I was still talking and telling them that this was wrong, that they cannot do this, it's not against any school policy. The officer, he told me to sit down and be quiet. I said, 'No, I'm exercising my right to free speech.' I said it calmly," he said.
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After the incident, local police charged Marcum with disrupting the educational process and obstructing an officer, AP reports.
"The only disturbance was caused by the teacher. He raised his voice," Marcum added.
Unlike most minors, who would shun the attention garnered by such a high-profile arrest, Marcum and his family told AP that they wanted his name and case publicized. The Logan Police Department has yet to address the arrest.
According to the Logan County School District’s dress code, students are forbidden from wearing anything that displays profanity, violence, discriminatory messages or sexually suggestive phrases. Garments that glorify alcohol, tobacco or drugs are also banned.
Still, Marcum’s lawyer, Ben White, insists that the NRA T shirt did not constitute a violation of the dress code, let alone grounds for an arrest.
"I just don't understand why this teacher reacted the way he did," White told AP. The lawyer also requested that the school preserve surveillance tapes that captured the incident.
White is scheduled to meet Monday with Logan Middle School Principal Ernestine Sutherland. The principal has yet to comment on Marcum’s case.
While White acknowledges the school’s prerogative to restrict behavior that might cause disruptions, he claims that it can’t do anything to restrict the right to free speech.
"If a teacher is telling you to do something that's wrong, I don't think you should follow it. But I also don't think you need to do it in a disrespectful way," he told AP.
White is seeking a dismissal of all criminal charges against Marcum.