News · Opinion

What Not to Wear

At Union City High School in Union City, Michigan, we are told the girls are hot and the boys are fine. At least that’s what the class shirts read. But those shirts are at the forefront of some school ground controversy these days.

Some are seeing what comes after that catchy phrase as more than simple, innocent math.

“We’re the class of 6 + 9,” the shirt reads. One with a clean mind would see this as 15 (2015) the year the junior high school students plan to graduate. However, many see the underlying sexual innuendo at play.

According to Fox 17 News, the students OK’d the designs with their administration folks. However, upon further review, they were informed the shirts were not school appropriate. The administration cited the possible sexual innuendo 6+9 brings to mind.

Students wearing the shirt the following week were suspended for their insubordinate behavior. It was the last day of school.


School systems have begun to crack down on apparel with potentially inappropriate or offensive rhetoric recently. In March, a Grand Island, New York student was suspended for a day after wearing a pro- National Rifle Association tee. In 2009, more than two-dozen students in Omaha, Neb. Were reprimanded for wearing a T-shirt in memory of a fellow murdered student. The shirt, which read “Julius RIP,” was considered inappropriate because officials saw the “RIP” as a gang symbol.

In many of these cases, groups such as the ACLU have become involved in an effort to protect what they see as basic rights as a citizen.

Must we enter the 21st century conflict and realize we can no longer be clever or wear something for a good laugh? Yes, we must. We live in a world where schools must be on their p’s and q’s in lieu of obtaining a civil suit. Adults – just like the students – knew what this shirt’s meaning really was. And to think they could get away with it might be more of a joke than the shirt itself.

And sometimes the end result is warranted, even legally.

In Broussard v. School Board of City of Norfolk [Va.], the shirt Kimberly Broussard wore to her city’s middle school was not protected under the First Amendment. The shirt featured the popular music band New Kids on the Block and read “Drugs suck!” The school system said the word “suck” was lewd and received support from the Virginia Supreme Court. The “school’s determination that ‘suck’ was lewd, vulgar, or offensive was not merely prudish failure to distinguish vigorous from vulgar, but was … to regulate middle school children’s language into socially appropriate speech,” said the Court.

While the Union City students’ shirt didn’t hurt anyone, it may have made some uncomfortable, proving it would be nearly impossible for him or her to make the purchase. Further, as in Broussard, it created a clear distraction and, it can be argued, promoted promiscuousness. And with that, the students hurt their own cause.

Freedom of speech is our right but its inevitable consequences are our responsibility.


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