Parents fearful of Marilyn Manson seek school ban

Friday, February 20, 1998

Parents in Grand Blanc, Mich., claim devotees of Marilyn Manson are terrorizing middle school students there and are asking school officials to ban dress, jewelry and other attire associated with the shock-rocker.

Seventeen parents wrote to the Grand Blanc Board of Education this week asking it to ban attire popularized by the rock band known for lewd on-stage acts and songs about murder, rape, sodomy and self-mutilation.

According to the parents' letter, some members of the group threatened to sacrifice one student and told others they want to drink their blood. They also have read the satanic bible aloud and distributed satanic literature in school, the parents say.

The parents claim the music may be related to two suicides at Grand Blanc middle school in recent months. They likened Marilyn Manson fans to a gang.

Superintendent Gary P. Lipe said the school will take action if the Manson fans are intimidating other students.

“If it is a gang infringing on the rights of other students, then that would not be acceptable,” Lipe told The Flint Journal. “But if they are quietly wearing items that reflect their beliefs, then that's their right.”

Some board members said banning black clothing may not be the answer, especially since the middle school's colors are red and black.

But school board member James Delaney, an attorney for several area school districts, said First Amendment rights would not apply if what the parents are saying is true.

“First Amendment does not protect devil worship in the eighth grade,” Delaney said. “Nor is it a First Amendment right to say, 'I want to lick your blood' or 'I want to drink your blood.'”

Gary Schwartz, executive director for the National Campaign for Freedom of Expression, however, disagrees and says Marilyn Manson has become an easy target for people want to restrict student rights. “Anything related to Marilyn Manson seems to cause controversy,” he said.

Schwartz said that a clothing or speech ban poses problems because students share many of the same rights as adults “but their First Amendment rights are not often listened to very well.”

Nina Crowley, director of the Massachusetts Music Industry Coalition, said she agreed that the First Amendment probably doesn't protect some aspects of devil worshipping in schools but not for speech reasons. If the students are pushing their religion onto someone else during school, that would violate separation of church and state doctrines, she said.

Crowley said the courts have “time and time again ruled that kids have right to express themselves via their clothing.”

She said she watched teenagers at a recent Marilyn Manson book-signing in Burlington, Mass. Although there were hundreds of them in the parking lot “they waited peacefully. No trouble. No impression of them being evil and inflicting harm on others. Just the same kids as any others.”

—First Amendment Center staff and the Associated Press contributed to this report.