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Hinsdale Teen Fights Suspension for Wearing Gun Club T-Shirt to School

The Eagle Scout says the school arbitrarily infringed on his First Amendment rights and he wants his record cleared.

A Kentucky Armory Club T-shirt got Chris Borg, 18, of Hinsdale, suspended.
A Kentucky Armory Club T-shirt got Chris Borg, 18, of Hinsdale, suspended.

By Dennis Robaugh

HINSDALE, IL — An Eagle Scout suspended from school for wearing a T-shirt imprinted with the outline of an AK-47 will appeal his punishment to the principal of Hinsdale Central High School.

Last summer, Chris Borg and his fellow Boy Scouts were hard at work repairing a lily pad pond damaged by vandals, just the sort of thing good kids do.

Now, as the 18-year-old high school senior heads toward high school graduation, Borg is at the center of a free speech dustup over a T-shirt labeled "disruptive."

And this Eagle Scout is standing his ground.

Borg appeared Monday night before the Board of Education for Hinsdale Township High School District 86 and expressed his dismay at how school officials reacted to his attire earlier this month.

Borg said hall monitors noticed his shirt — emblazoned with "TeamAK" and the website kentuckyarmoryclub.com — as he tried to enter the school and referred him to the dean of students, who told him he either had to turn the shirt inside out, replace it or take a suspension because the shirt's imagery violates the school dress code.

"I decided to go home for the day because I felt it was an infringement of my First Amendment right to freedom of expression," Borg explained to the board, noting that he'd worn the shirt to school at least 10 times previously without objection.

The dress code prohibits any clothing that is "vulgar, inappropriate, unsafe or disruptive to the educational process (e.g., advertising/display of alcohol, drugs, tobacco, sexual innuendo)."

No specific reference to firearms is listed in the dress code, however.

"Every school I've ever worked at has restrictions on what a student can wear when it's offensive or could be predicted to be offensive, when it promotes drugs, alcohol or violence," Supt. Bruce Law told the Chicago Tribune.

Presumably, Borg's T-shirt, which he purchased last fall during a visit to the gun club, was interpreted as "disruptive" or promoting "violence."

Borg doesn't agree.

"Guns don’t have to be for killing,” said Borg, who has taken marksmanship and gun safety classes. "They are tools you can use for shooting targets, hunting or self-defense. This is my hobby and it is recognized as an Olympic sport."

Borg said he wants the suspension removed from his record. The superintendent and the school board president told Borg he should pursue an appeal with the school principal.

The young man's father, Kevin Borg, told the Tribune he would have told his son to wear a different shirt to school. Nevertheless, Dad is firmly in his corner.

"He's 18. He makes his own decisions," Dad said. "I respect his right to express his feelings."

What do you think? Did the school go too far? Should the dress code be more specific? Should Chris Borg's record be cleared?

Linda Burke May 15, 2014 at 05:23 PM
I think there is a good case to be made that the First Amendment means no dress code anywhere. I respect the consistency of such an argument. It could be defended on constitutional grounds.
Rick Pipal May 15, 2014 at 06:22 PM
My hope is that HCHS takes this opportunity to strongly suggest to all students to read the Constitution; the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights. Freedom of Speech is not a "catch all" right to express what you want to express anywhere you want to express it. In this case it was clear from the start this young man did nothing wrong. Linda, you may benefit from reading the documents as well. This was unnecessarily turned into a political issue by the school. This entire discussion is a result of HCHS's inconsistent and poor judgment and the dumb decision made at the moment. Tolerance is a wonderful quality as long as you agree with some of the most intolerant - e.g. HCHS's principal.
Linda Burke May 15, 2014 at 08:32 PM
to quote Mr. Pipal, "Freedom of speech is not a 'catch all' right to express what you want to express anywhere you want to express it." I am actually familiar with the first amendment and even with some of the case law related to the first amendment as it applies to students in their high school. Rightly or wrongly, there have been limits approved on free speech for students in the high school setting. A first amendment case could be made for no dress code anywhere. I respect the consistency and zero hypocrisy of that position. If we allow for any dress code within a high school, then the image of a Kalashnikov rifle is not appropriate for student attire. Yes, that is common sense. I think this young student has many promising qualities, but he also chose to defy a reasonable request made by a teacher, within his high school, without being willing to accept the consequences. He obviously has some growing up to do, and the best way for that to happen is for me to terminate my contribution to his fifteen minutes of fame for this behavior.
Patrick Scott May 15, 2014 at 09:08 PM
While many have "feeling" about this issue, the dress code is not that specific...once again one has assumed a lot or was in contact with the teacher/administrator to know how they created the initial decision on this. Student dress code is a moving target...one judge/administrator allows students to wear another country's national emblem while blocking students from wearing the US Flag on their clothes claiming that in so doing the students wearing US material will incite a riot...now that's a legal liberal stretch. Another Judge decides that uniforms in public school is enforceable. Lots of twists and turns by judges. Apparently no one decision fits all situations and I guess that's how the 1st Amendment works.
Bob Vey May 31, 2014 at 10:01 AM
As Chris said in the article he wore the shirt "at least 10 times" before & nothing was ever said or done about it ; that sets a Precedence. Why all of a sudden did they decide to do something about it???? Schools are there to Educate the students as Rick Pipal has stated on May 15 at 6:22 P.M. What ever happened to tolerance???? There is way to much Political Correctness in this Country!!! No matter what you look like, say, or do, it's going to Offend someone, somewhere. Political Correctness is making people to Damn Sensitive!!!! People have to learn to grow the hell up & toughen up!!!

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