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School Is Still Battling Over Patch

Jaiden Rodriguez, a 12-year-old student at Colorado’s Vanguard School, may have officially been given the go-ahead to sport a “don’t tread on me” patch on his backpack, but an advocacy organization says the school district still has a long way to go when it comes to protecting Rodriguez’s right to free speech.

The Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE) recently spoke with Rodriguez’s mother, who said that despite the school board’s public statement, officials for Harrison School District Two in Colorado Springs, Colorado, including Mike Claudio, assistant superintendent, have informed her that her son may only display the Gadsden flag patch as long as nobody else objects to it.

Moreover, the district is prohibiting Rodriguez from displaying a second patch that relates to the Firearms Policy Coalition and expresses support for the Second Amendment. Officials say it violates the district’s categorical ban on material related to alcohol, drugs, tobacco, and weapons.

In a letter to the district, FIRE lawyer Aaron Terr expressed his belief that the district’s policies are unconstitutional. He noted that the patch, while it does depict a firearm, does not endorse any unlawful activity and does not come off as a threat.

“Under the policy, students cannot wear D.A.R.E. shirts or Everytown for Gun Safety pins,” said Terr. “This policy goes far beyond prohibiting expression that promotes illegal activity or that would substantially disrupt the school environment.”

Terr also noted that it would be unfair to permit free speech up until the point at which someone objected to it. Such a policy would be an example of the heckler’s veto, which of course would be grossly unconstitutional.

The district has yet to respond to the letter, but FIRE is hopeful that officials will soon realize that any student’s right to free speech should not be trodden on.

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