L. Neil Smith's
THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 91, September 25, 2000
by Carl Bussjaeger
Special to TLE
Olive Branch High School in DeSoto County, Mississippi is one of the latest public indoctrination centers to adopt the ass-backward anti-crime measure of banning some clothes. Or in this case, a color: Red.
It seems that school officials had noticed that three to five students often wore the color red. This was clearly proof that the students in question were members of a criminal gang. And surely there's no better way to stop gang activity than to ban their 'color'. Right?
Of course, I suppose it escaped the faculty's notice that red was apparently the only gang indicator; no one seems to have any evidence, circumstantial or otherwise, of any organized criminal activity. If there is any, Olive Branch police aren't aware of it, according to police officials there.
Nevertheless, red had to go. The idiots ordered the students in question to stop wearing red. Shirts or shoelaces, backpacks or bandannas, slacks or socks, whatever -- If it's red, it's out.
Only problem is, the students are smart enough to see the administration's basic stupidity. So on September 13, 2000, several students organized a protest: Approximately one hundred of the young adults made a point of wearing red to school. Another two hundred, not part of the protest, coincidentally wore red that day. School officials seeing the obvious for once, that they were being ridiculed, called all students wearing red to the cafeteria where a school-wide, month-long ban on red was announced. Early televised news reports claimed that scarlet students were being suspended and sent home. It was later reported that parents were called to the school to bring their activist offspring some non-red clothing. Confusion may have been caused by the school's refusal to let a news crew onto the property, likely spurred by the fact that the newswoman happened to be wearing a red blouse. (Hey, Constitutionalists: Shouldn't banning the press for choice of clothing colors be good for some sort of First Amendment complaint?)
Does the stupidity stop with the purely arbitrary enforcement of a previously unannounced policy? Heck, no. An editorial in the Commercial Appeal, the major newspaper for the Memphis metropolitan area of which Olive branch is a part, sets new standards for doublethink. In the September 16, 2000 edition, the editor points out that students do have a right to wear red. But somehow students who were able to organize a protest that shook the administration had no real goal and were therefore merely troublemakers. Apparently high school students aren't smart enough to set their sights on the goal of standing up for their rights. In the editor's mind, the action was random disobedience. Of course, since the general wearing of red hadn't been banned until the protest occurred, I'm not sure what rule the editor thinks the students were disobeying. (hmm ... 'ex post facto laws' ...)
It gets better (or worse, if you're prone to rational thought). Steve Nawojczyk, former Pulaski County coroner in Arkansas and adviser to the Arkansas Attorney General's Youth Gang Task Force said of the OBHS action, "If they are taking the action for the safety of the kids, then they did the right thing even if there was no gang involvement." Oh, puh-leeze -- not 'for the kids' again; pardon me while I get sick. So even if there's no crime, violating rights is okay so long as you do it 'for the kids'.
Now that the sensible among us are thoroughly disgusted, let's add a humorous note to the whole fiasco: The area has a minor league baseball club which apparently made it into the playoff (details escape me as I don't follow organized sports); the Redbirds, whose team color by some odd stroke of coincidence is... red. And to show their support for the local ball club, many people took to wearing red on a daily basis. News anchors on the local stations have been bragging about who's wearing more red on camera. Businesses in the metropolitan area, including FedEx, have encouraged their employees to wear red to work.
Sheesh. If a handful of teenagers wearing red made the OBHS principal nervous, he must be scared shitless walking around town.
No word yet on whether the ban will be extended to crayons, pencils, or art class paints. We can only hope that bureaucratic red tape will be included.