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Case Against Student Who Wore NRA T-Shirt to School Dismissed

Friday, June 28, 2013

On June 27th, in a positive resolution to a case which has captured the attention of advocates for First and Second Amendment rights, the case against 14-year-old Logan Middle School Honor Student Jared Marcum of Logan, W.V., was dismissed with prejudice.  Marcum had been charged with obstructing an officer following an incident stemming from a Logan Middle School faculty member's reaction to Marcum wearing to school an NRA t-shirt featuring the words "Protect Your Right" and an image of a semiautomatic rifle. The charge against Jared carried a possible sentence of incarceration.

The entire episode started back on April 18th when Marcum was wearing his NRA t-shirt in school and a Logan Middle School band teacher took exception to Marcum's choice of attire.  The Logan County Schools' Dress Code, however, had no restriction on clothing featuring firearms.  Nevertheless, the teacher demanded that Marcum remove his shirt or turn it inside out. Marcum refused, citing his First Amendment rights, at which point the other Logan County school officials became involved.  During the incident, Marcum's classmates were vocal in support of him.

As Jared persisted in asserting his rights and refusing to remove the shirt, school officials called the Logan Police Department, complaining of an "unruly student."  Police arrived to find Jared in the principal's office, still wearing the shirt.   An officer ultimately arrested Marcum, claiming that his repeated assertions of his rights, even after being warned to be quiet, constituted obstruction of a police officer. Marcum was also given a one-day suspension from school.

Upon his return to school, Marcum again wore the t-shirt that sparked the controversy and was greeted by a show of support from his classmates, many of whom chose to wear similar attire in solidarity. In the days that followed, support continued to pour in from students all around the country, along with rights advocates across the political spectrum. In support of his client, Marcum's attorney, Ben White, made clear Jared's motivation for his behavior, stating, "Jared respects firearms and has training to use them, and believes in the Second Amendment... He believes it's being threatened by current legislation. He wore [the shirt] as an expression of political speech and the need to protect the Second Amendment."
 
On June 17th, Logan County prosecutors charged Marcum with obstructing a police officer, claiming that Marcum had hindered the responding officer's ability to do his job by "interrupting" and refusing to be quiet when told to do so. The charge carried with it the possibility of incarceration in a juvenile facility. In contesting the charge, White noted that "In my view of the facts, Jared didn't do anything wrong," going on to say, "I think [the officer] could have done something differently."

Thankfully, on June 27th, common sense prevailed, as the parties agreed no further legal action would arise from the case.  In the agreement underlying the order of dismissal, Jared did not admit guilt to any offense, and the State made clear that "[u]nder [the] circumstances [it] is not interested in the possibility of creating a juvenile criminal record for this Defendant."  For his part, Marcum has offered an apology for any perceived disrespect to the officer, and he and his mother agreed to forego any civil action against the City of Logan, its police department, the police officers involved. During the episode, NRA was in contact with and provided assistance to Marcum's attorney.

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