Fifth-Grader Suspended for Wearing "Obama: A Terrorist's Best Friend" T-Shirt:

A Colorado TV station is reporting that

An 11-year-old in Aurora says his first amendment rights are being trampled after he was suspended for wearing a homemade shirt that reads "Obama is a terrorist's best friend."

The fifth grader at Aurora Frontier K-8 School wore it on a day when students were asked to wear red, white and blue to show their patriotism....

According the the boy's father, the school district told the student, Daxx Dalton, that he had the choice of changing his shirt, turning his shirt inside out or being suspended....

Aurora Public Schools would not talk about the case but said the district "Respects a student's right to free speech, such as the right to wear specific clothing," but administrators say they review any situation that interrupts the learning environment.

Paperwork submitted by the school district says Daxx Dalton was not suspended for wearing the shirt, but for willful disobedience and defiance....

To repeat my response to a "[Bush:] International Terrorist" school T-shirt case from four years ago, student speech like this can generally be restricted only if (1) there's serious reason to think that it's likely to cause material disruption, or (2) it's vulgar or profane, and offensive because of that and not because of its political message. (It could also be restricted if it's otherwise unprotected, for instance because it's a knowing lie, a death threat, or the like, but that surely doesn't apply here; though lots of people think the viewpoint the shirt expresses is wrong, it's clearly a statement of opinion, not of fact.) The T-shirt here might be seen by some as rude, but the rudeness flows precisely from its political content, so item 2 doesn't apply, either.

The question is whether the school really has some good reason to think that this would cause material disruption. I'm pretty hesitant, absent more evidence, to think that it would (though I realize that there might be more evidence that isn't quoted in this news story). If the school can show that similar T-shirts had started fights, there or in neighboring schools, or that there were incidents that seemed about to blossom into fights, it might have a good case. But I don't see how this is inherently likely to be any more disruptive than the anti-Vietnam-War black armbands that the Court held to be protected in Tinker v. Des Moines Independent School District (1969), the leading case in this field.

And of course if the disobedience consisted solely of the refusal to go along with the order to cover up the T-shirt, punishing the student for the disobedience is constitutionally tantamount to punishing him for the speech (since this is precisely what happened in Tinker itself).

Thanks to Derek Muller for the pointer.