Tuesday, April 04, 2006

T-Shirts Two, revenge of the ACLU

I can't begin to express the distress I feel when I'm on the same side as the ACLU :->

Anyway, the Potomac news has a follow-up to the story last week on the elementary school t-shirt incident I first mentioned in Why do we ban T-shirts from school? The new article, titled Parents, ALCU want apology over T-shirts, follows the story through monday.

The headline suggests they just want an apology, and I think an apology is in order. However, lawyers are involved, so the fear is that an apology would lead to a lawsuit claiming admission of guilt. And the article suggests that may be the case:

The ACLU contends that the principal overstepped his bounds to limit the students' freedom of expression, and is asking for an apology to both students and parents.

The parents say it is too late for an apology.

Later the story says the parents are getting a lawyer.

I object to making this into a lawsuit. I agree with the parents that, given the facts as they have been presented to us (always a danger -- there could well be additional information we are not privy to) the principal overreacted, and should say so. But I don't think the error rises to the level of offense worthy of a lawsuit.

Parents are warned about shirts with personal messages. These are not the first students to be held out of class for language that was deemed "offensive" or that would detract from the school experience. You put messages on, you take your chances. I think we are too restrictive in our policies, but I agree that schools should have some leeway to control messages which are forced on other students by virtue of the mandatory attendance policies of schools.

In this particular case, the message to me seemed to be within the bounds of civil discourse. While I believe that overemphasis on cultural differences, especially when accompanied by foreign language, harms our country, I also believe people should be permitted to express pride in their heritage.

If a shirt that says "I'm proud to be an American" could be seen as offensive by people who complain that it suggests they should be ashamed because they are not American. But that is a sorry excuse for taking away the rights of students to express their pride. We should instead teach our children to tolerate other's opinions (not give in to them, but simply tolerate them). We can't do that if we ban the messages from our public schools.

So I say give the apology, and lets drop the lawsuits. Because as much as I dislike people enforcing their views of 'offensive' on others, it is nothing compared to the loathing I have for people who, when offended, think it requires government intervention and the exchange of large sums of money.

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