A federal court in Wisconsin ruled that teens had the right to wear pro-gun t-shirts with firearm images and text in school. The case combined two lawsuits from Shattuck Middle School and Kettle Moraine High School students told to cover up pro-Second Amendment inscriptions on their t-shirts. The two students were taken out of school after failing to comply.
One of the teens, a Shattuck Middle School student identified as N.J. was described as a Second Amendment supporter and a gun enthusiast who “believes in the value to society of personal possession of arms as guaranteed by the Second Amendment.”
He had a t-shirt bearing the “Smith & Wesson” inscription and a pistol image. He also had a patriot sweatshirt bearing the words “I’m a Patriot – Weapons are part of my religion.” It also had images of two antique firearms and a medieval helmet.
N.J. wore the t-shirt to school and was told to cover it up. In response, his mother’s boyfriend brought the sweatshirt for him to wear to cover the t-shirt.
The sweatshirt was also rejected and N.J. was taken out of school. The following day he wore the same t-shirt to school and was told to cover it up, again. N.J. protested the school’s lack of dress code that defined the acceptable dressing criteria.
The middle schooler says that the school violated his freedom of speech as guaranteed by the First Amendment Rights. He added that the school’s dress code was “unconstitutionally overboard” because it lacked an “objective criterion” to determine the appropriate dress code. N.J. accused the school of violating his right to due process as enshrined in the Fourth Amendment.
The Kettle Moraine High School student, identified as A.L., also had complaints of the violation of his First Amendment and Fourth Amendment rights.
He wore a Wisconsin Carry Inc. t-shirt which had the logo of the organization and “a handgun tucked behind the inscription as if the gun were in a holster and the inscription were a belt.”
“The people have the right to keep and bear arms for security, defense, hunting, recreation, or any other lawful purpose,” a text on the t-shirt read.
In both counts, the court ruled that the shirts plausibly fell within the protection afforded by the First Amendment. It also found that the inscriptions were constitutionally protected, although not absolutely.
The defendants had argued that the speech was an advertisement and therefore very particularized. However, the court did not rule whether the defendants broke the law by banning the display of firearm images and text from the students’ dressing.
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