tshirt.jpgLast October Waxahachie High School (TX) sophomore Pete Palmer was sent home for wearing a John Edwards 08 t-shirt to school and threatened with suspension if he wore it again. Palmer and his family are suing the Waxahachie Independent School District (WISD). The Palmer’s claim WISD violated Pete’s right to free speech.

According to WISD Superintendent Thomas Collins the t-shirt violated school dress code. The district’s dress code only allows students to wear WISD t-shirts, college or university t-shirts or solid-colored t-shirts. All other t-shirts including political t-shirts are prohibited.

WISD’s dress code is similar to many schools in the area. In fact some schools in Ft. Worth ISD require students to wear uniforms. Out of necessity schools must enforce dress codes especially on the secondary level. Left to their own devices many students would wear clothing that is offensive, provocative, gang related or otherwise inappropriate.

Most likely Palmer and his family signed a student code of conduct among other things included the dress code. Also, since Palmer was a sophomore he should have been well aware of the dress code. He knowingly chose to violate the dress code.

6 thoughts on “You Can’t Wear That Here

  1. Doesn’t matter if it was free speech…if there was a dress code in place that specified he couldn’t wear it…then he couldn’t wear it. Period. When you go to work and you have a dress code for dress clothes, you don’t show up to work in ratty jeans and a tshirt and claim it free speech…school it no different.


  2. Actually, I have had students tell me that they should be able to wear what they wanted to wear like teachers. For some reason they thought I actually wanted to wear dress clothes. It amazed them to learn I wanted to wear shorts, t-shirt and sandals.


  3. I actually think its pretty cool that a high school sophmore would be interested in wearing a shirt like that. If anything the school should be proud that they are getting through on some level to the students to have them interested in voting and political debate.

    A lawsuit though? Come on! He did violate the dress code. Get a grip kid. There are gonna be a ton of battles in life save your energy.


  4. Just because the school has a dress code doesn’t make it a constitutionally valid one. The Supreme Court ruled in Tinker v. DesMoines that a school district dress code that banned the wearing of black armbands to protest the Vietnam War violated the students’ right to freedom of speech. Remember, the main point of the free speech clause of the First Amendment was to protect political speech….the exact kind of speech this student was exercising. As a high school teacher, I applaud this student for filing the case, and would be shocked if he didn’t win in court. Don’t be so quick to give up your rights to speech just because there is a policy in place!


  5. Stuart,

    So if a student wishes to stand up in the middle of your lectures and exhibit free speech you are cool with that?

    It has been established that schools have a right to limit students free speech. This student signed a code of conduct at the beginning of the year. The schools dress code is in line with other schools in the area. The limitations on the type of shirts worn is in part due to gangs.

    It is not a matter of rights but learning to follow the expected behavior.


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