Ever since his son Colton was asked to cover up his Star Wars T-shirt at school, Joe Southern has been speaking out about what he sees as an injustice to his son.
Colton Southern is a seventh-grader at George Junior High School. He is also a Boy Scout and involved in a local church. This isn’t the first time he has worn his Star Wars: The Force Awakens T-shirt to school. But Thursday was the first time anyone working at the school said something to him about the picture on the front. When Colton arrived at school wearing a T-shirt depicting a Stormtrooper holding a “blaster,” his dad says he was asked by school administrators to cover up the T-shirt by zipping up his jacket.
The school’s reason for banning the shirt? The school dress code prohibits any clothing that has symbols that promote violence, according to a representative from the school.
Colton’s father believes the school’s actions are in complete violation of the First Amendment, which protects students wearing clothing depicting any type of weapon — real or fictional — from discipline within the public school system. The only caveat is that if the clothing is somehow disruptive to the learning process because it openly promotes violence, administrators can ask the student to change or cover up.
With the premiere of the new Star Wars movie around the corner, just about everyone knows exactly what a Stormtrooper is, which makes the shirt less likely to be threatening or distracting to everyday kids. A blaster is a fictional weapon — a laser gun used by fictional characters in a series of movies that has been popular in this country since the first Star Wars movie was released in 1977. Kids know this.
However, this student’s experience brings up an interesting question: Where is the line between a shirt that harmlessly depicts a fictional character holding a fictional weapon and a shirt that promotes violence?
It seems obvious to us: There is a big difference between a fictional weapon from a sci-fi movie and a T-shirt promoting violence against other human beings. In a world where violence in school is a very real problem, it is important to take actions to make sure students feel safe.
When students show up at school wearing clothing that supports violence toward human beings, it makes sense for a school to take action. But a shirt that promotes violence toward Gungans? It’s probably safe to leave well enough alone.
What do you think of the shirt?