ACLU Supports Dearborn Student’s Right to Protest

February 01, 2003
After Brett Barber, a junior at Dearborn High School, was told to take off his anti-Bush t-shirt or go home, he called the ACLU of Michigan to ask for help. Understanding that the school violated Barber’s free speech rights, the ACLU is now looking at possible litigation if the matter cannot be resolved any other way.

On February 17, Barber wore a t-shirt that with a picture of President Bush that reads, "International Terrorist" to express his concern about the President’s policies on the potential war in Iraq .  School administrators asked him to remove the t-shirt, turn it inside out, or go home.  The school’s justification was that the shirt might cause a disruption despite the fact that he wore the shirt for three hours without incident.  

“It’s a gutsy thing for a high school student to take on a school administration in this way,” said Kary Moss, ACLU of Michigan Executive Director.  “It’s obvious that Bretton feels very strongly about this issue and we want to make sure that his ability to express his political opinion isn’t hindered in any way.”  

Barber is an excellent student, with nearly a 4.0 average, and was second in his class last semester.  He’s hoping to go to the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor and is particularly interested in pursuing a career in constitutional law.  

Barber’s political views have been developing for quite a while.  He has been a “card-carrying member” of the ACLU since the 10th grade, and has contributed whatever he could afford since middle school.  Though he’s given up wearing his shirt for the time being, he hopes to organize a group of students to protest the banning of the t-shirt.  

“The shirt was meant to emphasize the message “no war” and I feel that I’ve been successful in getting that message out,” said Barber. “I really want to thank the ACLU for the help they’ve given me.”  

“I’m hoping that we can resolve this issue without going to court,” Ms. Moss added. “However, if the school is unwilling to allow students the right to political expression, we’ll have no choice.”

Read the article from the New York Times

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