CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - A criminal charge has been dismissed against a West Virginia student who refused a teacher's order to remove a National Rifle Association T-shirt he wore to school.
Logan County Circuit Judge Eric O'Briant signed an order dismissing an obstruction charge Thursday against 14-year-old Jared Marcum stemming from an April 18 incident at Logan Middle School.
Marcum was charged after a police officer told him to stop talking, but the student didn't.
Marcum's attorney, Ben White of Chapmanville, says Marcum was exercising his free speech rights and his support for the 2nd Amendment right to bear arms. After a review of statements from the officer and the school's principal, White says he and a prosecutor agreed that creating a criminal record for Marcum wasn't a good idea.
This past April, an employee at Logan Middle School called Logan Police about a disturbance in the cafeteria.
Two months later, police report receiving about 100 calls a day about that same case.
“Our phone calls are unreal,” Logan Police Chief E.K. Harper said. “We've got rashes of complaints, threats and everything in here.”
The story hit news stands across the country, stating eighth-grader Jared Marcum was arrested for wearing an NRA T-shirt to school. Police say that's not true.
“I was there. I know what happened,” Harper said.
Harper says he and a couple of his officers were called to the school because of what happened after Marcum was asked by a school official to change his shirt. He says the problem had to do with Marcum’s reaction to the situation.
“We're not the Nazi police,” Harper said. “We're unable to tell our whole side of it because laws in West Virginia prevent you from telling the details of a juvenile.”
Marcum has previously given WSAZ.com his side of the story and says he did nothing wrong.
He's charged with obstructing an officer -- who has now become the target of countless threats and complaints.
WSAZ.com was in Harper’s office when one of those calls came in.
“This officer is stupid,” the caller said. “He took an oath and he better start defending it.”
Harper's response to these calls: “The boy was not arrested for wearing that NRA shirt. The shirt had nothing to do with his arrest."
Harper says it is frustrating that he can't give more details about the arrest. He believes if he could, they would not be getting the number of phone calls they have handled.
He also said he wants to make it clear that he and his department support the NRA, and that it is their job to protect rights, not violate them.
The Logan County Board of Education agreed to hire the outside investigator.
Jared Marcum was charged with causing a disruption at the school on April 18. His stepfather, Allen Larieris, has said the eighth-grader was waiting in line in the school cafeteria when a teacher ordered him to remove the T-shirt or turn it inside out.
Marcum's lawyer, Ben White, says school officials told him Marcum's one-day suspension was appropriate because he was being disruptive.
White says Marcum was exercising his free speech rights and his support for the 2nd Amendment right to bear arms.
Ben White, who represents Jared Marcum, said his client’s First Amendment rights were violated.
Marcum was suspended and arrested after he was asked to remove the shirt. However, an attorney with Logan County Schools says the T-shirt did not violate the school’s rules. He went on to say that Marcum was not suspended for his t-shirt, but confidentially prohibited him from saying anything more.
Marcum, along with several other students, wore the T-shirt in question to school on Monday.
The attorney said the Logan County Board of Education is investigating the incident. The superintendent will take a closer look at all the facts and determine if any disciplinary action will be taken.
Although Marcum was arrested, charges against him have not been filed. The juvenile prosecutor in Logan County is still looking at the case to see if they will move forward with obstructing an officer and disrupting the educational process.
White said he will go to the school board Thursday night and ask that the suspension be wiped from Marcum's record.
Fourteen-year-old Jared Marcum, of Logan, returned to Logan Middle School on Monday after serving a one-day suspension.
His lawyer, Ben White, says school administrators maintain that Marcum disrupted the educational process. The lawyer says Marcum was exercising his right to free speech and wasn't disruptive.
Logan Police arrested Marcum at the school last Thursday after he refused a teacher's order to remove the shirt. White says prosecutors are reviewing the case to determine whether to file charges.
Marcum wore the same shirt to school Monday. The shirt displays the NRA logo and a hunting rifle.
Logan County Schools Superintendent Wilma Zigmond didn't immediately return a telephone message.
Jared Marcum, 15, wore a National Rifle Association T-shirt to Logan Middle School Thursday. School officials asked him to change, and he refused; that's when he says things escalated.
"Everyone in the lunchroom was quiet, got up and crowded around us to watch," Marcum said.
Marcum says he was charged with disrupting the educational process and obstructing an officer.
City of Logan Police says school authorities called them in when things got out of control in the cafeteria.
Chief E.K. Harper told WSAZ.com that school officials described the student as being "belligerent" and "almost starting a riot."
"It was very disruptive to the school and disruptive to the educational process," Harper said.
Marcum denies the allegations.
"I didn't try to incite any riot whatsoever ... the kids did that of their own free will," he said. "I had nothing to do with it."
Marcum claims he was trying to exercise his right to free speech and ended up with a criminal record.
But police say his arrest had nothing to do with the T-shirt he was wearing, but rather what he was accused of doing in school.
"We did not arrest anybody for wearing an NRA shirt with a gun," Harper said. "That was not even brought into question by us."
Marcum's stepfather, Allen Lardieri, says he's going to fight on his behalf.
"I'm interested to see what the future holds, and how all this is going to pan out," he said.
Marcum says he looked into school policy, and nothing forbids students from wearing clothing showing guns.