Educating the shirt off your back

Recently, Logan County has made national headlines. The event that garnered the attention was the arrest of 14-year-old Jared Marcum, a student at Logan Middle School, in April because he wore a T-shirt to school that displayed the NRA logo, a hunting rifle and the words: “protect your right.”

That’s right, arrested.

Band teacher David Burroway took exception to the shirt and ordered Marcum to either remove it or turn it inside out, claiming that it violated school policy. Marcum disagreed, and after consulting the school manual and the school attorney, Burroway conceded the point, according to one account.

That might have been the end of the matter, except that the police had already been called. They arrived on the scene and arrested Marcum for “obstruction.” Charleston TV station WOWK covered the story.

When reporter Charlo Greene arrived at the Logan police station, the lady behind the desk was caught on camera threatening to arrest her for “obstruction.” It appears they have a one-track mind in Logan County.

The prosecuting attorney, Christopher White, behaved no better, having attempted to get the judge to issue a


“gag order,” barring Marcum and his family from talking to the press. According to Marcum’s father, White explained that he was acting in Jared’s “best interest.” Right.

It strikes me as strange that there was a “school attorney” to consult. In my day we had a school nurse but not a school attorney. I guess it’s a sign of the times, but not a good one.

That said, it is incomprehensible to me that the teacher and the principal were not familiar with their own school manual and policy.

Apparently, Jared Marcum had a far better understanding of it than they did. He also understood what was meant by his constitutional rights and referred to them when interviewed by the media. I wonder if it might be too much trouble for the school system to require teachers, principals and administrators to read the school manual; they might also require them to read the Constitution while they’re at it.

There is an inherent problem at work here, which strikes at the core of public education. While education is not considered a “public good” in an economic sense, by law, every child in West Virginia is compelled to attend school until the age of 17. Children whose parents do not have the resources for private schooling or home schooling are compelled to attend public schools. By law, the public is compelled to pay for them. There are parents that feel compelled to send their children to public school since they’ve already been compelled by law to pay for them through taxation. Synonyms for compelled are “forced,” “coerced,” etc. In circumstances like these, normal market forces are defeated and turned on their head.

If parents as consumers of education have no choice, there is no incentive on the part of the school system to meet their needs. Instead of pursuing best practices based on what is best for each individual student, the system is politicized. There is no incentive for Marcum’s band teacher to show tolerance for his views. In fact, it appears that he tried to bully Marcum because of his views. Ironic, considering that bullying and tolerance are the “causes du jour” in the field of education.

Each student is an individual, with unique interests and talents, and education is really a very private matter. However, when it comes to schooling, parents today are faced with a Hobson’s choice where they don’t even have the option of taking it or leaving it. They are faced with the prospect of intolerant teachers and administrators that force their views on their children. And they have little recourse.

Further, instead of dealing with the Marcum situation constructively, with parental participation, the school involved the police. Public Broadcasting reports that in inner cities there is a hue and cry over what is now called the “school to prison pipeline.” Police involvement in school incidents is becoming a national urban trend. This should not be the direction we should be heading here in West Virginia.

This story came to a merciful conclusion at the end of June. According to Greene reporting on WOWK, the charges against Marcum were dropped “because the state of West Virginia was not interested … in creating a criminal record for this defendant.”

Imagine that. For their part, Logan Middle School wasn’t interested in him at all. As for Marcum, he has graduated from Logan Middle School and plans to eventually join the military.

His lawyer is planning a civil suit. Of course.

— Elliot Simon writes

from Harpers Ferry

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One Response to Educating the shirt off your back

  1. I stopped reading after you said he was arrested for wearing a shirt. If you believe that then there’s no reason for anyone without an agenda or obsession to read any further. If you don’t believe it then you shouldn’t have typed it. Either way, you’re wrong.

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