Was New Orleans Student Sent Home for Wearing Colts Jersey?
Filed under: In The News
A Louisiana High School student was told he could not wear a Colts jersey in Saints country. He was sent home, the local chapter of the ACLU got involved, and, after a couple of days, everyone apologized.
At first glance, this story sounded more controversial than the onside kick Saints' coach Sean Payton called for in Super Bowl XLIV. But should the judges up in the booth take another look? Or was the ruling on the field correct?
According to reports in the New Orleans Times-Picayune, Maurepas High School student Brandon Frost was "sent home" when he arrived at school two days before the big game wearing an Indianapolis Colts jersey. (In case you were watching the Puppy Bowl on Sunday, the New Orleans Saints beat the Colts by a score of 31-17.)
Livingston Parish schools adhere to a dress code. The Times-Picayune reports that principal Steven Vampran "had given students permission to swap their school uniforms for Saints gear ... in anticipation of Sunday's Super Bowl." He had not, however, given permission to wear anything else.
Frost, a senior at Maurepas High School, says Vampran had a strong reaction to the blue and white football jersey, telling the student "If you like Indiana so much, why don't you go back?"
Like other media outlets, including the Times-Picayune, ParentDish was unable to reach Vampran, and officials from Livingston Parish Public Schools tell us they have a policy of not commenting on student disciplinary issues.
A Feb. 5 story in the Times-Picayune says Frost was aware his choice of jersey could be problematic, and that a teacher "had warned him the principal wouldn't allow it, but he decided to wear the jersey anyway." In other words, Frost was aware he could get charged with a penalty for wearing blue and white instead of black and gold.
There is also some question as to whether or not Frost was officially "sent home." The Times-Picayune says Frost's father Larry told his son to "Go ahead and wear [the jersey] and if it becomes too big a problem, come home."
None of that matters, according to Marjorie R. Esman, executive director of ACLU of Louisiana. In a phone interview with ParentDish, Esman says after her office was contacted by the student's father, it responded by writing a letter to the school asking that the incident be expunged from the high schooler's record.
Although Esman says "students don't have a full panoply of constitutional rights at school," what principal Vampran did was "absolutely a first amendment violation." By telling the students they could wear either their uniforms or the jersey of one particular team, Vampran was "forcing speech in one direction."
To better understand the issues at play, Esman wonders what the reaction would be if this incident involved politics.
"You can't say you can wear a shirt supporting a Democrat, but not a Republican," she said, adding, "the fact that it's a sports team shouldn't change that."
On Feb. 8, the Monday after the Saints won Super Bowl XLIV, principal Vampran apologized to his student, who in turn apologized to his principal. Everyone was happy.
Except for Colts fans. But they were already miserable.
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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.