What would you do: Student T-shirt issues

Your teenage son loves to hunt, trap shoot, go to the range with you and even clean firearms (probably the only thing he likes to clean). He’s got a number of pro-firearm shirts that are not violent or hateful in any manner. He’s a decent student and shows teachers and school administrative staff respect.

The principal tells him he is no longer able to wear any shirts depicting firearms to school or he will face an in-school suspension.

Of course, he cites his 1st Amendment rights when he wears a t-shirt spelling out LOVE with firearms and other weapons. He is promptly escorted to “solitary confinement” for his in-school suspension.

What would you do?

Here’s the situation this what would you do is based on.


My son wore a shirt that would probably be considered much worse in a lot of people’s eyes. It was similar to this, but the gun was pointing out so you looked down the muzzle:


Let’s say I was shocked that he wore it to school knowing the sentiment of a lot of teachers about firearms. He likes to push his luck sometimes. :woman_facepalming:

He told me he ran into the principal as he walked into school that morning. I asked what the principal had to say - he liked the shirt! That happened in Wisconsin. I won’t say what school because I’d prefer the principal continues to support the Second Amendment without any negative school board interference. :smiley:


Ok, first, I love that t-shirt (and I say that as a .40 S&W guy)……

To the original question, I would have my son comply. I’m actually one of those parents who thinks school uniforms is the way to go and don’t think 1st amendment rights apply to students while in school (probably another post). So I get wanting to keep controversial items off the student body…(see what I did there? :laughing:)

I would ask to see the list of “banned” shirts/clothing and as long as the 2A shirt fell in line with those items (as ridiculous as I may think they are) we would comply.

Now having said that…if that “banned” list just contained things like religious references, pro-life, 2A, pro Trump items (obviously targeting conservative ideas), then I would outline to the superintendent and principal my intentions to sue for discrimination, harassment and violation of his 1st amendment rights.


I would suggest the same thing the parent did.

However, I recall in my school days, the one and only time disciplinary action was brought against me was for shaping my hand like a pistol in the 2nd grade. (It was before my grandfather told me anything about guns other than never pick one up) I’ll never forget both sides of my family went to the school so, instead of a write-up and suspension, I was ordered to stamp "to the parents of" on envelopes for two days.

Although, this child in the topic is protected under free speech. I suppose mine could have been considered a “threat” :grimacing:

Never made that mistake again. One child actually brought a loaded handgun to school in the 4th grade and he showed a friend…lets just say we never saw him again. Its a shame his parents did not teach him more gun safty or he just ignored it.


I didn’t have this problem with my first son. He graduated before we had been introduced to firearms.
My younger one was smart and wise enough to keep his “affinity with guns” out of school.
I don’t think it’s a matter of 1st or 2nd Amendment, I know kids have their rights, but school staff (unfortunately) links firearms to violence, not self defense.
I taught my kid to check the surroundings first before making any further actions.
If school doesn’t like guns, just accept this. There is no reason to escalate the issue only to demonstrate the rights or to show your appurtenance.
This particular situation is like wearing devil’s face shirt in Catholic School.

So answering the original question: “I would do nothing, because there would be no such situation”.

:roll_eyes: Am I old school father? :face_with_raised_eyebrow:


I am old enough to have gone to public schools that enforced a fairly strict dress code, by which I mean the code was both fair and strict. Up until high school, at which point the dress code was relaxed to the point of being non-existent. It wasn’t an improvement. I blame the 60s.

I have no problem with requiring school uniforms, or with dress codes, provided that the code is clear and specific and designed so that lower income families aren’t unduly burdened. But then, as an old school parent, I believe that kids aren’t in school to express themselves, they are where to be taught and to learn. One of the things they should learn is that there are times and places where how you present and conduct yourself is as much a part of the process as the main purpose for being there.

My personal preferences aside, there are some simple rules which could be easily adopted and enforced by schools that could go a long way toward eliminating these “self expression” battles.

For instance, no printed clothing allowed. No shirts celebrating guns, or kittens, or sports, or a religion, etc., even including corporate logos for stores or brands or products.

No athletic clothing such as sweat pants, work out outfits, yoga pants, or the like.

No head wear other than the minimum which may be required by adherence to a recognized religion, as attested to in writing by the parents, with copies on file with the school and the district office.

No clothing with visible rips or tears, regardless of the location of the damage. Likewise, no clothing which, by size, style, design, or mode of wear exposes undergarments.

Coats, jackets, ponchos, and similar outerwear must be left in lockers and not worn during class hours.

I’m sure there are other good ideas I haven’t included. The point is to minimize the disruptive factor of some clothing while retaining a broad field of choice.

Like is said, I’m old school, and rapidly sliding into full on curmudgeonhood.


Schools are trying to expand the “gun free” zone to include speech and thought as well. As long as that t-shirt cannot chamber a live round it is not a danger to anyone.


I think it depends on what the dress code said, and whether it was being applied equally across the political spectrum. If the shirt wasn’t specifically banned when he wore it, and other students are still allowed to wear antifa shirts, I’d raise holy h***.


@David38 - that was a good old school, and to be honest this still works.
My kids’ HS had 106 rules in dress code. And all was clear. Almost everything you mentioned, but students were allowed to wear their favorite club jerseys.


back in the day we would have had to turn the shirt inside out and wear it the rest of the day that way and never wear it to school again

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Contact both the 2nd Amendment Foundation and NRA legal foundation, ACLU and any other 1sth Amendment advocacy group you can think of and threaten to sue the pants off of the school. If they push it, file the suit.


My response would probably not be the most reasonable but in this day and age, who is reasonable…

Press it as a 1st Amendment rights…
If they press it as offensive to others, flip it around and be offended at every other students shirts like rainbow shirts and all…

If they don’t go after and restrict the other students clothing because your offended. Go after them for discrimination.

Go after them for everything to help make example of them as a warning to others that would dare infringe on someone’s rights…


I got around it… home schooling. :smiley:

I don’t believe that 1st amendment applies in school any more than it does where I work. They should also have evenly applied dress codes.

My parents got drug in due to me having a beard… as a Freshman… I was also on the shooting team, and our range was under the middle school. Early 80’s… Sadly, no more.


Given that there isnt a formal dress code being violated, I’m with @Greg1 on this.

When did thoughts or images gain the weight of real risk? If we can’t separate the consequences of a thought from the consequences of an action, we’re doomed. when an image that doesn’t even symbolically promote injuring a person is treated as if it causes real harm… well no WONDER kids don’t get the consequences of their actions. We’re teaching them that reality doesn’t exist.

That shirt couldn’t be any safer if it was locked in box. But we treat it like it’s a real danger. :woman_facepalming:


I’m more of a bully, I’d use both the 1st and 2nd Amendment issues and pound them into dust.


That’s a long established legal bar, “Incitement”. These shirts certainly don’t meet that bar.


As a 40 year 1911 guy; I love the shirt and the story. There is hope…


Here’s a brief synopsis of freedom of speech in public schools. (Keep in mind, according to court rules, brief is 25 pages double spaced)> :upside_down_face:
“First Amendment rights, applied in light of the special characteristics of the school environment, are available to teachers and students.” Tinker v. Des Moines Indep. Cmty .Sch. Dist., 393 U.S. 503, 506 (1969). Teachers and students do not “shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate.” Id. at 736. But, “the constitutional rights of students in public school are not automatically coextensive with the rights of adults in other settings.” Id.
" Schools may categorically prohibit vulgar, lewd, indecent or plainly offensive student speech … a school has limited authority to to censor school-sponsored student speech in a manner consistent with pedagogical concerns and … allows regulation only when the school reasonably believes that the speech will substantially and materially interfere with schoolwork or discipline." Barr v. Lafon, 538 F.3d 554, 563 (6th Cir. 2008).
The predominant cases have said that schools cannot stop students from wearing armbands in protest as political speech; they can regulate symbolic speech that promotes illegal drug usage and they can stop vulgar, lewd, indecent and plainly offensive speech.
Personally, I do not believe the shirts in the article meet any of the standards created by SCOTUS nor does the reference suggested by @Dawn.
On the opposite side of this equation, none of this is true of a private institution. Any non-discriminatory behavior can generally be banned by a private institution on private property and even for activity that does not take place on school property.


@MikeBKY I love it when you do that :grin:
a clear, on-point answer, with references. Thank you for taking the time :grin:


Growing u in a country environment,didn’t really run into this type of thing, however I would be inclined to sue the school district,as well as the school board as well as attempt to sue every teacher personally as an agent of the district. All under seperate lawsuits,I would look to through different lawyers. Do a 1st amendment series,a discrimination series,and a host of other suits from Rico to abuse. I would force the courts to try and group the cases,and make sure that everyone involved understood legally,and politically that this was a bad bridge to cross. I would seek budget injunctions,spending reviews etc. My primary focus would be destroy any though of violating mine or any child’s rights without true due process of all involved(community) and if I lost every case, the powers that be would know I laid the groundwork for others to come who had more money,better attorneys and more time and power. If I won,life goes back to normal.

As a side note though,sometimes you loose even when right,depending on the issue. Had a similar issue in CA a number of years ago,around our children being Christian,and certain satanic holidays the school instituted and was forcing all children to participate in. The schools resolution was to ask that we keep our children home for thetwo 1/2 day forced class celebrations. The lawsuits would not get heard in court,and the state pushed for negotiation rater that lawsuit on behalf of the school district. Needless to say when the job ended,we moved to Texas- what a refreshing change.:grin::grin: