Two Wisconsin schools allegedly prohibited students from wearing T-shirts that show images of guns. Now the families of those students are suing the schools, claiming the administration violated their children’s First Amendment rights.
The parents of two students who attend Kettle Moraine High School in Wales filed a lawsuit against the school’s principal last week, after they received a notice informing them that their children are not allowed to wear clothing with guns displayed on them. Wales is about 30 miles west of Milwaukee.
The students had both come to school recently wearing T-shirts depicting a firearm that supported gun rights organizations. One of the T-shirts had the words “Pew Professional” written on it with the image of a rifle displayed, while the other displayed the logo for Wisconsin Carry, Inc., a gun rights group in the state.
“I got it because I like the shirt,” one of the students, Robert Newhouse, who is on the school’s trap shooting team, said. “They’re really fun. It’s great to use to go hunting.”
Robert’s mother, Kimberly Newhouse, added, “I can understand if it was something that was very threatening or very violent. But just to be a picture and to be a supporter of our gun rights and be a supporter of just, legal ownership of guns, it was very upsetting.”
In a statement Tuesday, a district spokesman argued that the school is within its rights in setting dress codes.
“Providing a safe learning environment, physically and emotionally, for all students in KM’s schools is a top priority. Wearing shirts with images of weapons can be respectfully regulated by the District,” the statement read.
The attorney for the parents suing Kettle Moraine, John Monroe — who heads a firm in Georgia that specializes in gun rights cases — is also representing the mother of a student who attends Shattuck Middle School in Green Bay.
Kelly Jacob filed a civil action lawsuit against the associate principal of the school last week, claiming that he forced her son to change clothing after he arrived at school wearing a shirt with a gun on it. Her son was allegedly wearing a Smith & Wesson Firearms shirt depicting a revolver when the incident happened.
In this case, as well, the school district’s dress code policy allows it to require students to change clothing if their appearance is threatening in any way. However, it should be noted that the school is disputing Jacob’s claims.
With the lawsuits, Monroe is hoping to have the school change its policy, allowing students to wear clothing depicting guns.
“Well it’s a violation of First Amendment rights, to restrict speech in that way, when weapons are depicted in a non-threatening, non-violent manner,” he argued.