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Hinsdale Central lifts suspension of student who wore AK-47 shirt: UPDATE

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UPDATE (5/15/2014, 11:50 a.m.): Hinsdale Central High School has lifted that suspension of Chris Borg, according to a Chicago Tribune report on Thursday. The Hinsdale Township High School District 86 officials have decided to remove the suspension from Chris Borg's records. Borg is the 18-year-old Hinsdale Central High School student who was suspended for wearing a T-shirt depicting an AK-47 (and displaying "AK47" and a website address of a Kentucky gun club) to school last week.

Original story postd 5/14/2014:

Chris Borg, an 18-year-old student at Hinsdale Central High School in Chicago's western suburbs, received a suspension for wearing a T-shirt showing a graphic outline of an AK47 rifle on May 8. The T-shirt also has words on it which say “Team AK” and the name of a website, “kentuckyarmoryclub.com.” Four days later – last Monday - he was before the Hinsdale Central High School’s District 86 School Board claiming he was unfairly suspended for wearing the shirt. He has asked the school board to expunge the suspension from his record, according to a Chicago Tribune report on Tuesday.

Borg bought the shirt at the beginning of the school year when he was at a gun range in Kentucky. The student asserts that if the school doesn’t allow him to wear the shirt, they are walking on his rights to freedom of speech. According to the student, the shirt does not violate the school’s dress code policy. Looking at the school’s dress code and policies, there are guidelines set which do not allow depictions of tobacco, alcohol and drugs – as well as other inappropriate messages. However, disallowing depictions of guns is not specified in the rules.

The 18-year-old says that guns don’t have to be for killing. He states that they are tools a person can use for shooting targets, hunting or for self-defense. The young man says guns are his hobby and, furthermore, it is recognized as an Olympic sport. Borg also points out that Hinsdale Central’s mascot is a devil carrying a trident. A trident, he says, could be used as a weapon. By equating the trident to the AK47, he says that students are allowed to wear depictions of that weapon.

Borg also points out inconsistencies at the school. He alleges that he wore the T-shirt to school some 10 times before finally being stopped by a hall monitor last Thursday and instructed to go to the dean’s office. Borg was given the option of taking the shirt off and wearing something else. When he refused to do so, he was then told his only other option was to go home. He chose to go home rather than take the shirt off.

Like many other schools, school authorities have the responsibility to make judgment calls when they feel clothing is inappropriate for one reason or another. They make the call when they feel a student’s clothing is a distraction to the school’s purpose for having everyone there in the first place – to get an education. School authorities may make a judgment call regarding the dress code in relation to inappropriateness for a variety of reasons including clothing that is too revealing or a message on the clothing that authorities deem inappropriate. Part of a school's authority's job is to make such determinations.

Borg insists that no one was bothered by the T-shirt – as he says no one spoke to him about it the other times he wore the shirt. How he knows no one was bothered by the shirt is uncertain. It’s quite possible that a person who is disturbed by the sight of a weapon on a person's shirt is not going to say anything to them about it.

As reported by the Sun-Times, Bruce Law, the superintendent of the school district, said that a student has the right to appeal a suspension. The student, who is said to be an Eagle Scout, was encouraged by Board President Richard Skoda to make an appeal. Borg is going to appeal.

Again, the student is 18 and likely to be leaving high school within a month – or sometime soon in the future - and entering the “real world.” He was given the option of avoiding having a high school record which includes a suspension alleging a fascination with guns. He chose not to take the option.

There are those who feel such information should be on a young man’s record to give future potential employers information as to what type of person they could be hiring. Apparently, making a statement about guns and not following school authorities’ directives is all right until the statement threatens to follow one through life. Naturally, there are those who will praise Borg for standing up for his rights, some who will wonder why wearing a gun T-shirt is so important to him that he blemished his school record, and some who will believe his documentation in the school’s system needs to stand - or needs to be expunged.

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