CHARLESTON, W.Va. – A West Virginia teenager returned to class Monday wearing the same National Rifle Association T-shirt that led to his suspension and arrest after he refused a teacher’s order last week to remove it.
Other students across Logan County wore similar shirts, which display the NRA logo and a hunting rifle, to school in a show of support for 14-year-old Jared Marcum, said his lawyer Ben White.
White said school officials told him Monday that Marcum’s one-day suspension was appropriate because the Logan Middle School eighth-grader was being disruptive. White disputed that position, saying Marcum was exercising his free speech rights and did not disrupt anything.
“Their version is that the suspension was for disrupting the educational process, not the shirt,” White said in a telephone interview.
“I don’t see how he materially disrupted the educational process,” he said.
Logan County Schools Superintendent Wilma Zigmond didn’t immediately return a telephone message Monday.
Marcum’s stepfather, Allen Larieris, said Sunday that the teen was waiting in line in the school cafeteria last Thursday when a teacher ordered him to remove the T-shirt or turn it inside out.
White said Marcum was expressing his support for the 2nd Amendment right to bear arms by wearing the shirt, which he said did not violate the school’s dress code.
“We at this point believe that Jared acted as mature as a 14-year-old child can act with the pressure that was put on him,” White said.
Logan County Schools’ dress code, which is posted on the school system’s website, prohibits clothing and accessories that display profanity, violence, discriminatory messages or sexually suggestive phrases. Clothing displaying advertisements for any alcohol, tobacco or drug product also is prohibited.
Logan police arrested Marcum, 14, after he was sent to the school office and again refused to remove the shirt. Marcum has said that he was arrested on charges of disrupting an educational process and obstructing an officer, though White said Monday that the Logan County prosecutor’s office is reviewing the case to decide whether to proceed.
In West Virginia criminal cases involving juveniles, police file charges that they would want pursued. The prosecutor’s office then decides whether to file a petition asking a judge or magistrate to allow the case to proceed, said Brian Lanham, deputy director of the West Virginia Prosecuting Attorneys Institute.
The Associated Press typically does not identify juveniles who face criminal charges, but Marcum and his family wanted his name and case known.