Clovis North High School in California has reportedly told a student that she cannot wear a “Make America Great Again” hat to school on the grounds that it might make the other kids feel “unsafe.”
According to an article in Your Central Valley, Maddie Mueller is a member of a group called Valley Patriots. The group had reportedly planned to wear the hats to school last Wednesday, only for the school to tell them that they were not allowed.
Clovis Unified School District spokesperson Kelly Avants told the news source that the purpose of the school’s dress code was “for kids to feel safe at school, to feel supported at school, and to be free of distractions so they can focus on learning.” In an interview, legal analyst Oliver Wanger added that a student wearing a MAGA hat would be “closer to shouting fire in a crowded theater.”
Avants told another news source, Yahoo, that the dress code does allow “for students to wear shirts or other clothing with a wide variety of sayings and/or political commentary,” that “MAGA apparel is acceptable,” and that “the issue raised here is specific to a hat.”
“Both the district’s dress-code policy and the school’s handbook lays out allowable headgear to be hats or caps with the school logo and or in solid school colors,” she said. “There has never been a subjective evaluation of what language or logo is or is not on a hat, because the policy is straightforward in allowing only school hats or hats in solid school colors.”
Here’s the thing about that, though: Mueller also claims that she had asked if she could wear a MAGA hat in the school’s colors — which, according to Avant’s standards, should totally be allowed — and she was told that she could not.
Mueller has stated that she is challenging the school’s decision on First Amendment grounds.
Whether the school’s reported refusal to allow Mueller to wear a MAGA hat is unconstitutional or not, I’m not sure. After all, schools do have certain rights to determine their dress codes. What I am sure of, however, is that it is stupid — and that it’s especially stupid if it is in fact being banned on the grounds that it might make students feel “unsafe.”
The truth is, we are very lucky to live in a pretty safe country — and it’s also true that a hat, provided that it does not have a bomb attached to it, is not enough to compromise that safety. Honestly, Wanger’s comparing a MAGA hat to “shouting fire in a crowded theater” is so completely ridiculous that I cannot even begin to understand where his comparison is coming from. How does he think they are at all the same? Because to me, seeing a hat with some words on it seems pretty damn different from thinking that you are potentially about to be burned alive at the movies. One of them is an example of a situation where you might have a legitimate fear for your safety, and another represents a time when you just happen to be in the same room as a hat you might not like.
I understand that there certainly might be students at the school who do not agree with the message on Mueller’s hat, but so what? They should be able to handle seeing things that they disagree with, especially if they have the right to wear hats (in school colors, of course) that represent their own beliefs. What’s more, unless a hat says something like “I am going to murder your family,” then there is no reason that any student should actually feel unsafe because another student is wearing one.
Editor’s Note: This piece originally misattributed a quote by legal analyst Oliver Wanger to Clovis spokeswoman Kelly Avants.
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