Teen penalized for expression

An eighth-grader from Chicago Ridge, Ill., has been suspended from school for wearing a homemade T-shirt with a drawing of two towers, an airplane and a man in traditional Arab headdress.

Fourteen-year-old Ian Itani said he wore the shirt in response to taunts from his classmates.

He said he wanted to show them who really did the attacks. Itani wanted to show his classmates neither he nor his Arab friends had anything to do with what happened on Sept. 11.

Finley Junior High School officials said they suspended the boy because his T-shirt could be taken as a promotion of terrorism.

That is absolutely ridiculous. It is likely school officials thought Itani was making a terrorist statement because he is Arab.

In which case, the message he was trying to send was valid.

If a white, blond haired, blue-eyed boy were to wear the same shirt, the interpretation would be completely different. Officials would probably interpret his wearing the shirt as a sign of his patriotism and his support for the U.S.’s anti-terrorism campaign.

Itani’s shirt was not hateful towards anyone. The most the school should have done was to give him a warning. Suspending the young man was not warranted.

Itani’s parents are considering suing the school for violating their son’s right to free speech. They would definitely be right to do so.

America should not allow itself to fall victim to such hypersensitivity.

There is a difference between terrorism and a young boy trying to make a statement.

Augustine Rho for The Famuan.