An Oregon boy wore a shirt to school that the principal didn’t particularly like, which resulted in the student being sent home. The boy and his family don’t see any problems with the shirt, and the school is denying that a suspension even occurred.
Patriotism and support for the military are very important to Alan Holmes. That’s mostly due to his older brother, who joined the Marines when he was just 19 years old. The Dexter McCarthy Middle School student looks up to his older brother for his selfless service to our country.
Alan will never forget the joyful day his big brother made it home safely, even though he was just a little boy at the time. “I was proud of him,” the 8th-grade student said. “I remember the day he came home and I was just so happy. I was little, but I still remember it. He made me happy.”
Ever since that memorable day, Alan has tried to show his support for the troops, something he was doing when he wore a shirt that his principal didn’t like. The shirt didn’t display anything offensive, demeaning, racist, or otherwise wrong on it, but apparently, his school administrators claimed it was a dress code violation. Alan was accused of promoting violence.
The words on the shirt said, “Standing for those who stood for us,” and showed an image of the traditional soldier memorial, with a rifle, boots, and a helmet. The principal spotted the shirt and gave Alan an ultimatum, telling him to switch shirts or face suspension, but the boy didn’t back down. “The principal, I asked him, is this considered a suspension? He said, ‘Yes, I’ll see you tomorrow,’ and I left,” Alan recalled.
School administrators called Alan’s father, Charles Holmes, and asked him to pick up his son from school. However, he wasn’t angry at his son. Charles insists that the image is being misinterpreted by school officials, who refuse to call the corrective action a suspension. “Yeah, I’m proud of him,” he said. “I would’ve done the same thing.”
Athena Vadnais, a spokeswoman for the Gresham-Barlow School District, said in a statement, “Weapons on a shirt are not appropriate in a school setting.” However, “guns” or “weapons” aren’t mentioned anywhere in the district’s policy on dress code, which only prohibits clothing with “violence related references.” It would seem that the dress code actually bans violence, not weapons.
If this Oregon school sees a reference to the military and the depiction of a rifle as a “violence related reference,” a shirt depicting the Oregon state seal would fit the same criteria in the form of the British man-of-war ship and the arrows that the eagle is holding. And that eagle, of course, is borrowed from the Great Seal of the United States, the history of which has quite a few “violence related references.”
Alan insists the military tribute on his shirt isn’t a violent image and can’t understand why it caused so much fuss. “I was just upset. I was heartbroken,” he said. “My brother, he means everything for me. Just being able to help and give back to the people who fought and died for us it just makes me feel good.”
Unsurprisingly, the school was reluctant to issue a formal statement over the incident, but they eventually were forced to do so after being pressured by concerned parents. They said that weapons printed on a shirt are inappropriate for a school setting, even if they are being depicted as the battlefield cross.
The statement read in part: “Recently a middle school student in the Gresham-Barlow School District wore a t-shirt to school that had a rifle on it. Some news reports state the student was suspended. This was not the case. The administration did talk with the student about the appropriateness of the image on his shirt. The parent of the student agreed to allow the student to go home after the student refused other options such as changing into a different t-shirt. We are aware the rifle on the student’s t-shirt featured a Fallen Soldier Battle Cross, which is a symbol used to show respect for fallen troops. The message of the t-shirt, showing support for our country’s military, and their many sacrifices, is a positive one that we fully support. What called into question the appropriateness of the t-shirt in a middle school setting was the rifle included in the image.”
The thing that makes the reaction to Alan’s shirt ridiculous is the fact that the principal used the school dress code as his reason for sending him home. It states that students can’t wear anything promoting drugs, alcohol, tobacco, or violence. However, supporting our troops isn’t exactly promoting violence. It is promoting freedom.