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Nevada eighth-grader sues school after being punished for pro-gun shirt

"Don't Tread on Me" flag. (Gage Skidmore/Flickr)
May 01, 2018 and

A lawsuit was filed Tuesday against the Washoe County School District in Nevada by an eighth-grade Reno student, who claims his First Amendment rights under the U.S. Constitution were violated when he was reprimanded for wearing pro-gun shirts at school and allegedly violating the school’s dress code.

The Depoali Middle School student, identified only as “G.M.,” was punished in November 2017 and in March of this year for wearing clothes that promote guns. The lawsuit claims that the student was told by a teacher to cover up his shirt. He replied that he had the right to express himself through the clothes he wore. G.M. was warned not to wear the shirt again.

The Washoe County School District dress code stated that any materials that promote violence or weapons are not allowed. However, the dress code page has since been removed from the school district’s website.

In the school district’s parent-student handbook, the dress code is outlined, but nowhere does it make mention of images or illustrations of weapons on clothing.

A screen shot from the parent-student handbook. (Washoe County School District)

The student’s parents – local police dispatcher Audrey Guardanapo and Shaun Guardanapo, a former law enforcement officer and U.S. Marine veteran – filed the lawsuit on behalf of their son.

The first time G.M. was reprimanded, he was wearing a shirt with a logo from a local gun store, Sparks Black Rifle, which had an outline of a rifle and a handgun.

Sparks Black Rifle (Facebook)

And in March of this year, G.M. was disciplined for wearing a T-shirt with a coiled rattlesnake and the words “Don’t Tread on Me,” also known as the Gadsden flag.

There weren’t any images besides the snake.

“Don’t Tread on Me” (Sparks Black Rifle/Facebook)

The lawsuit claims that the student was told by a teacher to cover up his shirt. He replied that he had the right to express himself through the clothes he wore. G.M. was warned not to wear the shirt again.

“The shirt did not promote or advocate illegal activity; it contained no violent or offensive imagery; nothing on it was obscene, vulgar or profane … And yet (the student) was prevented from wearing his shirt based on school officials’ disagreement with the message they believe it conveyed,” the lawsuit contended.

The nonprofit organizations Firearms Policy Foundation and the Firearms Policy Coalition backed the student’s lawsuit, the Reno Gazette reported.

The school district is reviewing the allegations and had no comments, according to school district spokeswoman Megan Downs.

Brandon Combs, president of the Firearms Policy Coalition, said: “This lawsuit challenges, at its core, the school district’s policy which we believe is unconstitutionally over-broad and violates the First Amendment on its face,” the Reno Gazette Journal reported.