‘Let’s Go Brandon’ shirts at center of Ike protest
The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that students do not “shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate.”
But, schools do have the ability to place some limits on speech, especially where such speech would cause substantial disruption to the education process.
On Tuesday, a group of students at Eisenhower High School wore shirts bearing the phrase “Let’s Go Brandon” in school.
A week earlier, at a public meeting of the school board, Warren County School District Superintendent Amy Stewart said “Let’s Go Brando” “fits that lewd, vulgar symbol” that is prohibited by district policy.
Students were reportedly called to the office Tuesday afternoon and asked to either remove the shirts or turn them inside out. They were told that those who did were allowed to leave. Those students who did not remained in the office Tuesday afternoon.
“We didn’t want to take them off,” senior Josh Parker said. “We have the right to protest and we have the right to freedom of speech.”
He said about 25 students were kept in the office from about 1:30 p.m. until they were released back to class before the end of the school day.
“They came in to talk to us about it,” Parker said.
“I asked them what we were doing wrong,” Parker said. “Nothing on the shirt breaks dress code. They were worried about it being offensive to other people. They thought we were doing it to be nasty… F’ Joe Biden.”
School board members and administrators used the same term to describe the “Let’s Go Brandon” phenomenon during a board meeting last week.
That was not the point of the protest, Parker said.
“We were doing it because they were trying to take away our right to do this and our right to do that,” he said. The shirts “weren’t my idea. But I got what they were for.”
“Everything they said… we never broke those rules,” he said.
He said he had a copy of the student handbook with him and checked it against what school officials were saying.
“We were wearing the shirts and not making a problem out of it… we’re just wearing shirts,” he said. “At least we’re not yelling and screaming. Why did they tell us to take them off?”
Asked if the students were being disruptive, Parker said they were not.
“We put on a shirt and went to school and did school,” he said. “This is all over putting on a shirt.”
Other than being called to the office, spoken to, and kept there for about an hour, there was no penalty assigned to the students, according to Parker.
“There was never a consequence,” he said. “They never punished us. They let us go back to class.”
Stewart confirmed Wednesday that “as of right now, no one has been disciplined.”
A week ago, the school board had a lengthy discussion about the appropriateness of the phrase “Let’s Go Brandon.” During that discussion, Stewart said she had emailed administrators to point out the meaning behind the phrase.
Multiple board members said “Let’s Go, Brandon,” means “F’ Joe Biden.” None used any vulgar language during the meeting.
“To the average person Googling it, it is meant to be that shocking, lewd word,” Stewart said. “It fits that lewd, vulgar symbol. I think that it’s important that we not have that symbol of something lewd in our classrooms.”
School board member Arthur Stewart initiated the discussion with concerns that school officials were “sanitizing” language to the detriment of students.
He cited the district’s language policy which prohibits language that is libelous, obscene or vulgar, incites violence, or disruptive.
He said “Let’s Go, Brandon” is a “very polite way to say, I don’t like Joe Biden.”
“If we try to sanitize our schools… if we don’t have our children talk about that, how do they become responsible citizens?” Arthur Stewart asked. “Sanitizing our classrooms is going to ill-prepare our students. If our kids aren’t taking up these discussions, they probably aren’t learning to become responsible adults.”
Following the conversation, he said he was satisfied with the handling of the situation and that he would not push the issue further at that time. “We’ve had the discussion I wanted to have about it,” he said. “Let the parents push it or not push it.”