A middle school student in California was suspended and barred from attending sports events in his school district after he was accused of causing “offense” by painting his face partially black.
The incident took place at a high school football game between La Jolla High School and Morse High School in the San Diego Unified School District.
According to Fox News, the boy, identified only as J.A., wore black paint on the lower portion of his face and under his eyes for the high school game, which reportedly caused an issue with his Muirlands Middle School principal.
The student’s disciplinary notice was obtained by the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression. The notice stated that the 13-year-old boy “painted his face black at a football game” and noted that he was to be suspended for two days.
The notice also described that “Previous Interventions” had included a presentation called “No Place for Hate.” Additionally, the boy’s offense was categorized as a “Hate Incident” that was deemed an “Offensive comment, [with] intent to harm.”
The principal told the child’s parents in a meeting that he was also banned from attending future athletic events for wearing blackface.
The rights foundation stood up for the boy and wrote a letter to the school’s principal.
In the letter, FIRE called for the school to “remove the infraction from J.A.’s disciplinary record and lift the ban on his attendance at future athletic events.” The group then explained that “J.A.’s appearance emulated the style of eye black worn by many athletes. … Such use of eye black began as a way to reduce glare during games, but long ago evolved into ‘miniature billboards for personal messages and war-paint slatherings.’”
The group added that the young male was only following a “a popular warpaint-inspired trend” used by athletes in recent years.
A Supreme Court precedent was also cited: a 1968 case involving a group of students who wanted to wear black armbands in protest of the Vietnam War. In Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the students, saying that they “did not lose their First Amendment rights to freedom of speech when they stepped onto school property.”
The rights group requested a response to the letter it sent to local school district officials by no later than November 22, 2023.
The San Diego Unified School District has not responded to previous requests for comment.
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