Teenagers Sue School Principals Over Ban on Gun-Themed T-shirts

February 26, 2020 Updated: February 26, 2020
FONT BFONT SText size

Two principals from Wisconsin schools are facing First Amendment lawsuits after allegedly forcing students to cover their T-shirts featuring images of guns.

The latest lawsuit was filed by two mothers on behalf of their teenage sons, who are self-described gun enthusiasts and supporters of the Second Amendment right to bear arms. Last week, one of the two high school sophomores was called to the principal’s office and told to use a coat to cover his T-shirt, which bears the words “Pew Professional” and the image of an AR-15 rifle, according to ABC News affiliate WISN.

The school’s principal, according to the complaint, later wrote in an email to the boy’s mother that the school policy forbids students to wear “clothes that depict guns” and that her son should no longer wear such outfit to school in the future.

On the same day, the principal allegedly removed the other boy from class and brought him to her office because he was wearing a T-shirt that features the logo of Wisconsin Carry Inc., a pro-gun rights organization. The logo includes what appears to be a handgun tucked in a holster.

“The shirts are not threatening, violent, or illegal, and they do not depict drugs or alcohol,” the boys’ lawyer wrote in the complaint, arguing that the school’s dress code violated his young clients’ First Amendment rights.

An earlier lawsuit involved a middle school associate principal who allegedly made a student to cover his “Smith & Wesson” shirt with a sweatshirt, reported the local news outlet Post Crescent.

The student, “believes in the value to society of personal possession of arms as guaranteed by the Second Amendment,” according to the complaint, and “owns a variety of shirts that express his beliefs.” He claims that the principal violated his constitution-guaranteed freedom of expression by restricting his clothing.

Both lawsuits are funded by Wisconsin Carry Inc., which has a history of funding lawsuits related to gun rights. In 2018, the organization funded a lawsuit against a Milwaukee high school principal who used isolated timeout to punish a student for wearing T-shirts inscribed with pro-gun messages. One of the T-shirts in question, according to Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, reads “Celebrate Diversity,” and depicts a variety of guns.

A federal judge ruled in favor of the student, saying that the principal should not restrict the student’s wearing of clothing showing or mentioning guns, as long as the depictions are not promoting violence or illegal use of weapons.