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Civil Rights

Wisconsin High Schoolers Sue Principal for Asking Them to Cover Pro-Gun Clothing

— February 26, 2020

The two Kettle Moraine High School students say their First Amendment rights were violated as they sought to show pride in the Constitution’s Second.

Students at a Wisconsin high school are suing their principal, saying she violated their First Amendment rights by ordering them to cover pro-gun clothing.

The lawsuit, says the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, was filed by a pair of sophomores at Kettle Moraine High School in Waukesha County. Lodged in federal court last week, the complaint states that the First Amendment allows anyone—even students—to showcase their support for the Second Amendment.

Such suits are apparently a trend in Wisconsin: the Journal Sentinel adds that a Neenah middle-schooler sued his assistant principal on similar grounds last week. Several months before that, a group of Markesan High School students won a preliminary injunction in which a judge ordered their principal to allow plaintiff Matthew Schoenecker to continue wearing firearm-themed clothes (provided, of course, that such apparel didn’t advocate violence).

A spokesperson for WI Carry Inc., a firearms advocacy group that’s supported each of the pro-gun students, said he’s surprised the Kettle Moraine sophomores even had to sue.

A ‘gun-free’ school sign. Image via Flickr via Wikimedia Commons/Marcus Quigmire from Florida, USA. (CCA-BY-2.0).

“There is so much demonization of guns by public schools (these prohibitions are just one example) but also public schools SANCTIONED multiple walkouts in the past couple years to call for gun control, but a kid can’t even wear a shirt showing his gun pride?” WI Carry President Nik Clark wrote in an e-mail to the Journal Sentinel.

Clark told the Journal Sentinel that he’s actively encouraged teenagers to wear pro-gun clothes to school. Notably, both the Kettle Moraine sophomores were wearing WI Carry Inc.-branded apparel when they were confronted by Principal Beth Kaminski.

Kaminski—the only defendant in the suit—allegedly informed the two students that their shirts were in violation of Kettle Moraine’s dress code. She then asked them to cover the firearm-themed graphics with their jackets.

The lawsuit notes that Kettle Moraine’s student code of conduct prohibits clothing showcasing “threatening, violent and illegal” content, like “drugs and alcohol.” But there’s no mention of guns. Additionally, the school’s trap-shooting has previously been allowed to wear shirts which depict exploding clay targets.

However, Kettle Moraine School District Superintendent Pat Deklotz said administrators are entitled to tell students not to wear certain kinds of clothes.

“Wearing shirts with images of weapons is not an issue of free speech and it can be respectfully regulated by the district,” Deklotz said in a statement.

Kimberly Newhouse, the mother of one of the two teenage students, said she, personally, can’t understand what all the fuss is about.

“I can understand if it was something that was very threatening or very violent,” Newhouse said. “But just to be a picture and to be a supporter of our gun right sand be a supporter of just, legal ownership of guns, it was very upsetting.”


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More students sue principals over gun T-shirt bans

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