Monday, April 03, 2006

Why do we ban T-shirts from school?

In yet another immigration-related story, Saturday's Potomac News contained the story Students excluded over T-shirts. I wish I could find the picture online that was in the paper. I'll let the story describe the T-shirts:

Anderson Urrutia, 8, and Joseph Soriano, 5, went to school Friday wearing white T-shirts stating "Latinos Forever" written across the front in Spanish, and "100% Latinos" on the back. The shirts were made by Rosa Granados, a 16-year-old student at Woodbridge Senior High School and Anderson's sister and Joseph's aunt.

First, it is clear that these shirts COULD offend someone. Just substitute "White" for "Latino" and you'll see how. So, if we are going to ban every message that could possibly offend anybody, the shirts had to go.

However, I hate this policy of 'forbidding offense'. I think we are raising a generation which will have no coping skills to survive in a real world where people offend. If your reaction to any offense is to go find an authority to punish or remove that offense, what will you do when you are all grown up and someone offends you? If the authorities rightly laugh at you, you may well take matters into your own hands.

Don't laugh, we increasingly see people using violence against offensive speech, and even against perceived offensive acts. Road rage is but one example -- when people are killing each other in cars because someone flashed the finger at another driver, we really have a problem.

However, it is clear that these shirts were part of the demonstrations taking place over immigration policy. As such, I suppose they could be seen as inciting students to continue those demonstrations which have been disruptive to the learning process. Now, to my mind the shirts would not be inciteful in that way. But I'm not personally and professionally responsible for the lives of hundreds of children at a school. If I were, I may well err on the side of caution.

According to the article, the students were taken to the office where they waited 3 hours. I don't understand why the Principal didn't simply have the students turn the shirts inside out, or loan them some pennys from gym class, or some extra shirts the school certainly has for "accidents" like children getting sick.

Forcing the parents to drive into school seems like an overreaction to me, given only the information in the paper. However, I will note that there are often circumstances not publicly known. So I will only say that, given the facts as I know them, I would not have called the parents or taken the children out of class for a first offense. I'm not going to say that for certain the principal was wrong.

But I do think we need to chill out a little on the "offensive message" policies. If a message is positive (certainly being proud of your heritage is a positive thing), we should not ban it just because others are offended by that pride.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I am glad they were kicked out