Gun on boy's shirt causes trouble

GIL SMART
Lancaster Online
Monday, March 10, 2008

One day in December, Donald Miller III wore a gun to school. As you might imagine, it got him in trouble.

But the gun wasn't loaded; indeed, it wasn't a real gun at all. It was the image of a gun, printed on the front and back of a T-shirt — a shirt the Penn Manor freshman wore to honor his uncle, a soldier in the U.S. Army fighting in Iraq.

On the front pocket, in addition to the picture of the military sidearm, were the words: "Volunteer Homeland Security." On the back, superimposed over another image of the weapon, the words "Special issue — Resident — Lifetime License — United States Terrorist Hunting Permit — Permit No. 91101 Gun Owner — No Bag Limit."

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They are, said Miller, 14, patriotic sentiments in a time of war. He feels pretty strongly about these things.

So do officials at the Penn Manor School District, who wanted him to turn his shirt inside out. When Miller refused, he got two days of detention.

His parents, Donald and Tina Miller of Holtwood, got angry and called a lawyer.

And now a lawsuit has been filed in federal court, accusing Penn Manor of violating Miller's First Amendment rights. The Millers and their attorney, Leonard G. Brown III of the Lancaster firm Clymer & Musser, accuse the school district of following a "vague Orwellian policy" that throttles both patriotism and free speech.

Penn Manor says the case has less to do with free speech than it does guns.

In the post-Columbine era, said Kevin French, an attorney for Penn Manor, school districts are duty-bound to create a safe environment for students, a place where intimations of violence aren't permitted. District officials aren't trying to impugn Miller's patriotism, said French. But when someone brings even the image of a gun to school, he says, that violates school policy.

Full article here.

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