The saga of Jared Marcum, a West Virginia teenager who was suspended and charged for wearing a National Rifle Association t-shirt to school, is not over yet. This week, Marcum’s mother, Tanya Lardieri, filed a lawsuit against the Logan County Board of Education for violating her son’s constitutional rights. Lardieri is seeking $200,000 in compensatory damages as well as an additional $250,000 in punitive damages.
The saga began in April 2013, when 14-year-old Marcum was accosted by a Logan Middle School secretary in the lunch line. The secretary told him that his NRA t-shirt violated the school’s dress code and that he would have to turn it inside out. Marcum did not comply and he was subsequently led to the principal’s office for his defiance. From there, the police were eventually called, and Marcum was led out of the office in handcuffs. He was charged with obstruction for failing to keep quiet after being told to do so by an officer.
The charges against Marcum were ultimately thrown out by a judge, but he was forced to serve a one-day suspension for his insolence. Now the family is suing not just the school board, but also the superintendent, the principal, a teacher, and several other staff members at Logan Middle.
The lawsuit may seem frivolous on the surface, but those who have followed this case from the beginning will know that the school board had it coming. There was not a single call for Marcum to be arrested last April, and it was nothing less than a public shame for prosecutors to push for charges after the immediacy of the situation had passed. This is a case of liberal educators stepping way over their bounds, and the lawsuit is justified.
It’s one more example of how the concept of “free speech” is limited to those types of speech that rise to the level of liberal approval. If it doesn’t, they can always find an excuse to censor. In this case, it was because Marcum’s t-shirt portrayed violent imagery, even though it was only a picture of a rifle. But they can stretch it to mean anything they want. By using terms like “distraction,” “hate speech,” and other weasel words, they hope to circumvent the Constitution by keeping their mandates out of the court system.
For that reason alone, lawsuits like this one are important. It may seem strange to sue over what amounted to a one-day suspension, but the heart of the matter is that Marcum’s rights were violated. The school used the force of the police department to shut him up, and they need to answer for it in a court of law. The more cases like these we have, the better. Liberals need to get it through their heads that their version of free speech is not the law.