Teen protests suspension over T-shirt with image of AK-47
By Annemarie Mannion Tribune reporter
7:04 a.m. CDT, May 14, 2014
A Hinsdale Central High School student is challenging a suspension he said he received for wearing to school a T-shirt that depicts an AK-47.
Senior Chris Borg, 18, of Hinsdale, appeared before the Hinsdale Township High School District 86 school board Monday to make the request that the suspension he received on May 6 be removed from his record.
Borg told the board that he wore a T-shirt with the outline of an AK-47 depicted on the back, a url for the website of a Kentucky armory club that supports gun rights and the words "TeamAK" on it. He said the shirt did not identify the gun as an AK-47 in writing.
Borg said he was stopped for wearing it by hall monitors. He said the dean of students, Kimberly Dever, offered him the chance to turn the shirt inside out, wear another shirt or be suspended for the day.
"I decided to go home for the day because I felt it was a infringement of my First Amendment right to freedom of expression," Borg told the board.
Supt. Bruce Law said the T-shirt is a violation of the dress code outlined in the school's handbook.
The handbook states that students are subject to disciplinary action when they wear clothing that "is deemed vulgar, inappropriate, unsafe or disruptive to the educational process (e.g., advertising/display of alcohol, drugs, tobacco, sexual innuendo).
Borg said he was told the T-shirt was unsafe and disruptive.
"Pictures of firearms can be found in our history textbooks, but you don't see people freaking out about that," Borg said.
He also pointed out that the school's team mascot, which is a Devil, holds a trident, which is a weapon.
Law contends that schools have the right to restrict students from wearing offensive clothing.
"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," Law said.
Law said he does not plan to investigate the suspension. He said Borg has the right to seek to have the suspension removed from his record. The decision on whether the suspension should be removed would be made by the school's principal.
Borg's father, Kevin Borg, said he supports his son's quest to have the suspension expunged.
"He's not advocating violence. He's an Eagle Scout. He's a straight-up kid," Kevin Borg said.
Kevin Borg said if he'd known his son was going to wear the T-shirt to school he probably would have suggested that he not wear it.
"But he's 18. He makes his own decisions," Kevin Borg said. "I respect his right to express his feelings."
Kimberly Dever referred questions on the suspension to the district office.