Michigan school board, community debate Korn T-shirt controversy

Wednesday, March 18, 1998

About 175 people packed a school board meeting earlier this week in Zeeland, Mich., to discuss the controversy surrounding the suspension of a high school student for wearing T-shirts of rock groups Korn and Tool.

School officials suspended 18-year-old Eric VanHoven earlier this month for wearing T-shirts that featured only the names of the rock bands. Zeeland school officials punished VanHoven after searching the Internet to discover the groups' “offensive” lyrics.

Jim Camenga, a spokesperson for Zeeland Public Schools, told SonicNet that he thought the meeting held in a local middle school went well. “Twenty seven out of 175 people got to speak and it was probably split 50-50 between people in favor of the school's policy and people who thought it should be changed.”

The school's policy apparently allows educators to prohibit clothing or items that imply “obscenity, violence, drugs, alcohol or sexual innuendo.”

Wendy Wagenheim, legislative affairs director for the Michigan chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, says that the school's policy is “very broad and sweeping.”

She said: “Money should be spent in classrooms, not in courts. The priority of school administrators should be on teaching, not on investigating implied messages that they think may be harmful.”

Although the school board meeting did not solve the controversy over the dress policy, school officials set a forum meeting for next Tuesday to try to hammer out a solution.

Phone calls placed to the school and the board's attorney have not been returned.