LOGAN, W.Va. – The mother of a West Virginia middle schooler who was suspended for wearing a National Rifle Association t-shirt to school is suing the Logan County Board of Education for allegedly violating her son’s constitutional rights.
Tanya Lardieri filed the lawsuit on behalf of her son, Jared Marcum, who was charged with disrupting the educational process and obstructing an officer in 2013 when he refused to turn his NRA t-shirt inside-out, the Charleston Gazette reports.
Those charges were later dismissed by a judge, but Marcum was forced to serve a one day suspension for his defiance.
“The shirt was an un-alarming olive green tee shirt bearing the NRA logo, which is the letters ‘NRA’ in black, the words ‘PROTECT YOUR RIGHT,’ an image of a hunting rifle and the officials NRA logo which has an eagle and two cross firearms,” according to the lawsuit cited by the Gazette.
The lawsuit names several school board members, the school district superintendent, as well as the principal, a teacher and staffers at Logan Middle School, according to the Logan Banner.
“Lardieri claims while waiting in the lunch line in the school’s cafeteria (on April 18, 2013), Marcum was physically stopped by (school secretary Anita Gore), who placed her hand on Marcum’s chest, stopping him from proceeding further, and advised him that his shirt violated school dress code and instructed him to turn the shirt inside our or face suspension from school,” the Banner reports.
Gore enlisted the help of teacher David Burroway, who agreed the shirt violated the dress code and hauled him to the principal’s office by his arm, according to the lawsuit.
The teen was later charged with obstruction of justice because an officer asked him to stop talking, and he continued, the Banner 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,” Marcum told the Associated Press in 2013.
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The teen, an NRA member, now attends Logan High School.
The family’s lawsuit seeks $200,000 in compensatory damages and $250,000 in punitive damages for alleged violations of Marcum’s First and 14th Amendment rights. It also states the shirt complied with county and school dress code policies against violent or threatening images, according to court documents cited by the media.
“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 the AP.
“The only disturbance was caused by the teacher. He raised his voice,” Marcum said.
The family is represented by Chapmanville attorney Ben White, the Gazette reports.
“I just don’t understand why this teacher reacted the way he did,” White said.
“If a teacher is telling you to do something wrong, I don’t think you should follow it,” he told the AP shortly after Marcum’s arrest. “But I also don’t think you need to do it in a disrespectful way.”