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Argument over NRA T-shirt gets eighth-grader jailed. Dress code run amok?

A student at a West Virginia middle school was suspended and arrested after a confrontation with a teacher over an NRA T-shirt with a picture of a rifle on it. Public schools have some leeway in setting dress codes, the Supreme Court has found.  

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Timothy Coley (l.) of Bristol, Conn., and Josephy Boniface of East Granby, Conn., talk during a gun rights rally at the Connecticut State Capitol in Hartford, Conn., on Saturday.

Jared Ramsdell/Journal Inquirer/AP

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In West Viriginia, the National Rifle Association and its supporters are facing another gun control effort – albeit on a smaller scale.

On Thursday, the same day that the gun lobby and its supporters in Congress roundly defeated a package of gun control bills pushed by President Obama, eighth-grader Jared Marcum was suspended by Logan Middle School and briefly jailed for wearing a pro-NRA T-shirt.

The T-shirt had picture of a gun, and school officials deemed it a violation of their dress code, which bans profanity, discrimination, or violence on clothing.

Jared says the decision violates both his First Amendment right to free speech and his Second Amendment right to bear arms, and his father has vowed to "go to the ends of the earth" to clear his son's name – which could include filing federal or civil lawsuits against the district, a lawyer for the family said.

"What they're doing is trying to take away my rights, my freedom of speech, and my Second Amendment," Jared told WOWK-TV.

Jared is not the only student to face heightened sensitivity to images of guns in schools since the Newtown, Conn., massacre last December. In February, school officials at Genoa-Kingston Middle School in Illinois told a student he would be suspended if he did not turn inside out a Marines T-shirt that showed M16 rifles.

The question of what messages or images public schools can ban under dress codes has evolved in recent decades.

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