High school seniors' class shirt stirs controversy

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THORP, Wis. (WEAU) -- This week in Thorp, Wisconsin, words spoke as loud as actions.

Seniors at Thorp High School display the back of a T-shirt which was deemed inappropriate by school officials Tuesday.

The class of 2018 at Thorp High School wanted to have T-shirts made, complete with a catchy group-bonding slogan – but with one noticeable modification. On the back, it said "Kiss Our Class Goodbye", with lips covering the “C” and “L” in “Class.”

"That was just our mark. It was something funny to show. Kind of makes a fun joke out of it,” said Isaiah Williams, a senior at Thorp.

District superintendent John Humphries, however, said not everyone thought of it like that.

"We actually heard from some parents who were uncomfortable with the T-shirts,” Humphries said. "So as of even last week Thursday, when our high school principal heard about this plan, he told kids don't wear those shirts to school."

When students who were wearing the shirt came to school Tuesday morning, principal Bill Haas gave them a choice: cover it up or change into something that fits the district dress code. Despite the warning, a handful of Thorp seniors chose to stand against the principal's ruling.

"I believe it's the way somebody takes it,” said Vita Nicpon, a Thorp senior. “You're taking it as a negative thing. It's not like we didn't mean to cause harm or anything of that sort, but they're definitely taking it pretty hard."

"I think that's part of the job of an adolescent, is to test limits and find out where the boundaries are," Humphries said. "So they're doing their thing and I think they handled, it for the most part, very respectfully and appropriately.

"We all have to live together in the context of this high school. So it's important for Mr. Haas to respect all those viewpoints and I think what he did was to reach a very fair and appropriate conclusion."

While Humphries said this was a violation of the district dress code, those who stuck with the shirts say this was a violation of their first amendment rights.

"I don't really care what a school district has to say about my Constitutional right, personally, and I think that's the attitude the class should have,” Williams said. “I mean, we shall be respectful and respect certain rules, but I think there comes a point when you have to ask, is this really necessary?"

On Tuesday, it was deemed necessary with officials at Thorp High School, while Williams said it was necessary to wear the shirt.

"I probably do this again if it was over the same issue,” he said. “I mean, I wouldn't do it over something small and petty, but I think this is important. I think everybody should know they have the right to speak their mind, even if it is an unpopular opinion."

Read the original version of this article at weau.com.

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