When Haley Bullwinkle dressed one day last month, she, like many teens, was running short on laundry and pulled on a shirt that was clean before heading to school. She never thought her choice would get her sent to the office with a request to change her so-called “violent” attire.
Her shirt showed the silhouette of a hunter with the words “National Rifle Association of America: Protecting America’s Traditions Since 1871.”
The sophomore said she actually wore the shirt a couple times to school earlier this year without trouble. But walking down the halls of Canyon High School in Anaheim Hills, Calif., last month, a security guard stopped her.
“He said, ‘let me see your shirt.’ I didn’t even realize he was talking to me at first,” Haley told TheBlaze in a phone interview Wednesday evening. “He kept telling me to move my hair, turn around. He sounded really annoyed with me from the beginning.”
“I still didn’t know what was going on, what about my shirt that was wrong,” she continued.
Haley was sent to the principal’s office and was given a school-issued shirt to change into. While there, she was texting her father. Her primary concern? Was she in enough trouble that she wouldn’t be allowed to attend a weekend birthday party.
“I reassured her she wasn’t in trouble,” Jeb Bullwinkle told TheBlaze.
The father said he sent Principal Kimberly Fricker an email asking “why my daughter, a good kid” had to change clothes.
An email provided to TheBlaze from the Bullwinkle’s attorney from Principal Fricker said that a shirt with a gun on it is “not allowed by school police.”
“It is standard protocol to have students change when they are in violation of dress code,” Fricker’s note said.
The school’s dress code policy, a photocopy of which was provided to TheBlaze, bans students from wearing clothing that “promotes or depicts: gang, drugs, alcohol, tobacco, violence, criminal activity, obscenity, the degrading of cultures, ethnicity, gender, religion and/or ethnic values. (In general, anything that is divisiv or offensive to a staff member.)” There is no explicit mention of guns or firearms in the photocopy we reviewed.
Jeb said he has been in communication with the school, trying to figure out how exactly Haley’s shirt was in violation of this policy.
The more Jeb, an NRA member, thought about it, the more he wondered how an article of clothing with a hunter — images of which he said he’s sure are in books in the school’s library — is “so alarming” when the school has a color guard that twirls fake rifles and a mascot of a Comanche Indian.
Images of the school mascot include a head of a Comanche with spears. Even the football player’s helmets have a spear on them.
It’s not that Jeb is against these images, he said he just wants to know why, in light of these things, a shirt with a hunter is “suddenly violent or alarming.”
“If that’s dress code violation, well, what else constitutes a dress code violation?” Jeb said. “They’re trying to grab this onto this being an act of gun violence.”
What’s more, Jeb said he has a bit of an issue with the school requiring his daughter to take off and change an article of clothing without his prior knowledge. And for treating Haley, who he said is a good student and doesn’t get in trouble, “like a miscreant.”
TheBlaze asked if the school mascot with the spear appears on a school pride shirt, which students would could wear to class. Haley said it does.
With these contradictions and feeling that Haley’s first amendment rights were violated, Jeb contacted civil rights attorney Chuck Michel, whose other clients include the NRA and the California Rifle and Pistol Association.
“We’re looking for (the school) to acknowledge that this T-shirt and T-shirts like it aren’t banned by school policy,” Michel said.
“Students don’t leave their First Amendment rights at the door,” he continued, calling it “bologna” to consider a silhouette of a hunter as promoting “violence.”
If this is what the current policy is saying of the shirt, Michel said the color guard’s wooden rifles and mascot show that the school is “applying a double standard.”
“The NRA is interested in supporting Haley and people like her, defending against a campaign of shame,” Michel said.
Going forward, the attorney said he is preparing a pre-litigation demand letter for the school.
TheBlaze reached out to Principal Fricker but did not receive a response at the time of this article’s posting.