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Illinois Teen Fights Suspension for Wearing Gun Club T-Shirt to School

The Eagle Scout says the school arbitrarily infringed on his First Amendment rights and he wants his record cleared.

A Kentucky Armory Club T-shirt got Chris Borg, 18, of Hinsdale, suspended.
A Kentucky Armory Club T-shirt got Chris Borg, 18, of Hinsdale, suspended.

By Dennis Robaugh

HINSDALE, IL — An Eagle Scout suspended from school for wearing a T-shirt imprinted with the outline of an AK-47 will appeal his punishment to the principal of Hinsdale Central High School.

Last summer, Chris Borg and his fellow Boy Scouts were hard at work repairing a lily pad pond damaged by vandals, just the sort of thing good kids do.

Now, as the 18-year-old high school senior heads toward high school graduation, Borg is at the center of a free speech dustup over a T-shirt labeled "disruptive."

And this Eagle Scout is standing his ground.

Borg appeared Monday night before the Board of Education for Hinsdale Township High School District 86 and expressed his dismay at how school officials reacted to his attire earlier this month.

Borg said hall monitors noticed his shirt — emblazoned with "TeamAK" and the website kentuckyarmoryclub.com — as he tried to enter the school and referred him to the dean of students, who told him he either had to turn the shirt inside out, replace it or take a suspension because the shirt's imagery violates the school dress code.

"I decided to go home for the day because I felt it was an infringement of my First Amendment right to freedom of expression," Borg explained to the board, noting that he'd worn the shirt to school at least 10 times previously without objection.

The dress code prohibits any clothing that is "vulgar, inappropriate, unsafe or disruptive to the educational process (e.g., advertising/display of alcohol, drugs, tobacco, sexual innuendo)."

No specific reference to firearms is listed in the dress code, however.

"Every school I've ever worked at has restrictions on what a student can wear when it's offensive or could be predicted to be offensive, when it promotes drugs, alcohol or violence," Supt. Bruce Law told the Chicago Tribune.

Presumably, Borg's T-shirt, which he purchased last fall during a visit to the gun club, was interpreted as "disruptive" or promoting "violence."

Borg doesn't agree.

"Guns don’t have to be for killing,” said Borg, who has taken marksmanship and gun safety classes. "They are tools you can use for shooting targets, hunting or self-defense. This is my hobby and it is recognized as an Olympic sport."

Borg said he wants the suspension removed from his record. The superintendent and the school board president told Borg he should pursue an appeal with the school principal.

The young man's father, Kevin Borg, told the Tribune he would have told his son to wear a different shirt to school. Nevertheless, Dad is firmly in his corner.

"He's 18. He makes his own decisions," Dad said. "I respect his right to express his feelings."

What do you think? Did the school go too far? Should the dress code be more specific? Should Chris Borg's record be cleared?
Frank Esposito May 24, 2014 at 08:18 AM
What's wrong with this kid?! If you want to get ahead in today's world / schools, wear shirts depicting 2 male stick figures engaging in sodomy. Instead of suspension they would have haled him as a hero, let him skip ahead a grade and crowned him Prom Queen. This guy is his own worst enemy. He needs to start dressing for success!
Gene Firpo May 30, 2014 at 07:48 PM
You are so on Frank. Your stick figures will be on the New California State Flag in about 12 years.
Theresa June 13, 2014 at 10:26 AM
What a load of malarky. This kid is just looking for an instant 15 minutes of fame and will do anything. It's not about your rights- but rather about consideration of others' fears and feelings of safety. Guns are created for one purpose only, to kill a living creature. Wherever you stand on that argument, it is inappropriate, given the high incidence of school shootings, to act in a way that causes fear and discomfort in a place where children go to get an education. This misguided notion that this kid and his parents are modern and badass or standing up for their rights is just that - misguided. This is where the pro gun people lose anyone that might be considering their side of the equation, because they just look like ridiculous morons. Sure, you like guns, and are a good marksman, but your t shirt doesn't tell me that. It sends a message that you have one of the deadliest killing machines or that you idolize / admire it. It also indirectly gives a nod to all the nuts who have used them to kill people, whether or not you intend that. You don't win any points on your side of the argument by flaunting vague messages designed to serve your ego at the expense of others. I wonder if he would equally "stand his ground" if he tried yelling <fire!> in a movie theater or went to an airport with a T shirt that said <smart guys build good bombs> Freedom of speech right? Moron.
Peter June 13, 2014 at 11:02 AM
Well said!

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