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?