Thanksgiving reminds us of family.

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As we gather together for Thanksgiving with our families, stories about the past often come to the surface. We remember the moments that defined us, especially the ones when our mom or dad gently guided us with tender words like, “I’ll give you something to cry about,” or “I’m your mom that’s why.” Those glorious phrases have been passed from generation to generation, magic words that clearly delineated the Alpha Dogs from the rest of the herd.

But clearly, times have changed.

Last week, a 12 year-old boy in DeKalb County, Georgia was thrust into the spotlight over a t-shirt. Jaxon Jester is the son of Nancy Jester, a DeKalb County Commissioner and Stan Jester, a member of the school board. Jaxon and his class were going on a field trip to CNN when Jaxon showed up wearing a t-shirt that said FNN (Fake News Network). The teacher told him to change his shirt.

That used to be the end of the story.

Nancy Jester, Jaxon’s mother, felt his civil rights were violated. According to the AJC (see link to the story below):

“After the class was back from the field trip, the principal and the teacher involved called me. The teacher involved said that she told Jax to change his shirt because she thought his shirt said “F-CNN.” I told her that it absolutely did NOT say that. She apologized and said that she now realizes that the shirt has no profanity or suggestion of profanity on it. The principal stated that he should have been made aware of the situation before Jax was made to change his shirt. He apologized for the incident. We discussed how the shirt could have provided valuable learning opportunities if Jax and his fellow students could have explored how we get news and how we process it. The teacher agreed. Once home Jax described the situation a little differently. He stated that after he boarded the bus for the trip, the teacher came onto his bus and called his name to come forward. He did so. He felt that he was spoken to in a harsh tone and told he must change. He was respectful and complied. He was very upset but kept that to himself.”

 

Both parents are politicians so each provided their own statement, Stan Jester’s comes from his blog reprinted in the AJC:

“I advocate for the First Amendment across the board. I hope the freedom of students to express themselves will be vigilantly defended across he political, religious, etc … spectrums.

 

CNN is a popular destination for school field trips across the state. Every year the 7th grade at Peachtree Charter Middle School tours the CNN studios. This year when the CNN tour was announced, my 7th grade son Jaxon asked me if he could purchase an FNN-Fake News Network shirt to wear for his field trip. As an advocate for the First Amendment, I agreed to his request. He picked out the shirt he wanted and ordered it from Amazon. His mother cautioned him that he might cause a controversy and needed to be prepared for that. He was fully aware of the implications of his decision and made the affirmative choice to wear his shirt. Nancy took his picture this morning as he left for school. We received a phone call from the principal at the middle school this morning informing us that he was forced to change his shirt. I’m disappointed by the hypocrisy of this decision. Some students are celebrated when they make a controversial display during the National Anthem. My student was forced to remove his shirt because someone didn’t like it. I defend speech and expression, even if I disagree, or it makes me uncomfortable. This experience is teaching my son an interesting lesson.

 

The AJC also reported:“The school has since apologized to the Jesters, although Nancy Jester said the school should apologize to their son as well.”

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THE MORAL OF THIS STORY IS:Even in the age of technology and digital platforms, the t-shirt continues to teach us all very valuable lessons.

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