Logan County Schools hire independent investigator
by Debbie Rolen
An incident involving a Logan County Middle School eighth-grader, his suspension and arrest has sparked nationwide interest and controversy. The teenager wore a T-shirt depicting an AR-15 rifle, the NRA logo and the slogan “Protect your right.” A school staff member asked him to change the shirt. His refusal and subsequent events ended with his suspension and arrest.
The Logan County Board of Education has secured the services of an independent investigator to look into the circumstances surrounding the suspension. The investigator has completed interviews related to the situation and his report is expected soon.
Wilma Zigmond, superintendent of Logan County Schools, said the unusual step was taken because the Logan County Board of Education wanted to ensure a complete, objective evaluation of the situation was conducted. No school board members were involved in the initial decision to suspend the student, Zigmond noted, and they became aware of the situation only after the case received significant publicity because the student and family members talked to the media.
Although student privacy policies prohibit Zigmond from directly commenting on a specific case, she addressed general policies and resulting actions.
“Logan County school policies do prohibit certain kinds of attire, including shirts that promote drug-, alcohol-, or tobacco-related products that are prohibited in school buildings,” Zigmond said. “Students also are told they ‘will not ignore or refuse to comply with directions or instructions given by school authorities,’ in accordance with school policy.”
Contrary to some reports, Zigmond added, shirts that depict guns or promote the National Rifle Association are not expressly forbidden by school policy. In fact, on a recent Monday several students wore shirts promoting the NRA without any incident whatsoever.
“What students are not permitted to do, however, is disrupt the educational process,” she said. “That policy is in place to benefit everyone and ensure an appropriate learning environment for all Logan County students. I can say unequivocally that no student in our county has ever been suspended for wearing a t-shirt that promotes the NRA.”
Phyllis Adkins, president of the Logan County Board of Education, stressed that school board members support both the First Amendment and the Second Amendment.
“Our members understand the sensitivity surrounding this issue, but it should be made clear that board members have not taken any action regarding a student suspension,” Adkins said. “We are interested in ensuring that we have all the facts, however, which is why we hired an outside investigator. After receiving that report, we will determine whether board action is warranted. Our primary object is – and always has been – to ensure that our students receive the best education possible and that our staff members have a safe and respectful environment in which to work.”
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