Rhode Island Senior Can Wear Chain Mail and Wield Sword in Yearbook Photo, School Gracelessly Concedes

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I blogged this ridiculous case of pointless school administration tyranny a while back. Senior Patrick Agin, a member of the Society for Creative Anachronism, wants to publish a photo in the school yearbook of himself wearing chain mail (which his uncle makes) with a broadsword slung over his shoulder.

In any case, thanks to the ACLU and a Rhode Island Board of Education ruling that the principal's decision to ban the photo was "arbitrary and capricious," Agin will get his wish. The school will pay $2000 in legal costs.

However, instead of admitting that the school administrators were wrong, the Providence Journal reports:

Sylvia Wedge, chairwoman of the Portsmouth School Committee, confirmed yesterday that Agin's portrait will run in the yearbook, The Legend, but she said an effort will be made to ensure similar photos aren't allowed in the future.

Public schools once again teach a valuable lesson to future generations about how no amount of power is too petty to abuse.

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  1. Sylvia Wedge, chairwoman of the Portsmouth School Committee, confirmed yesterday that Agin’s portrait will run in the yearbook, The Legend, but she said an effort will be made to ensure similar photos aren’t allowed in the future.

    I don’t see how it’s really the school’s business in the first place. Someone correct me if I’m wrong, but don’t the kids pay for the yearbooks themselves?

  2. How many children have to be cut down in Viking raids before you get it, Bailey? The cycle of violence will continue. How can you not understand. Didn’t you see Conan?

  3. Not that I much care, but bringing a fargin’ broadsword to school with you would result in expulsion in most schools.

    Dimes to Donuts the ACLU wouldn’t have been quite so quick to invoke the 1st Amendement if the kid was wanting his picture taken in a Coonskin Cap with a Flintlock slung over his shoulder.

    Or how about in a Green Beret outfit wielding an M-16?

  4. On the topic of school administration tyranny, I noticed this article on cnn.com yesterday: Rhode Island school bans talking at lunch after choking incidents

  5. I apologize in advance for not RTFA, but I don’t have access.

    Is the “Society for Creative Anachronism” a school sanctioned society that meets on school grounds, or is it some private club with no affiliation with the school system?

  6. Politics, liberty and all of that aside… you know its one thing to go announcing your inner-star wars kid with a photo in the school year book, but its quite another to get the ACLU to announce it to the whole world. This kid has either got some serious balls, or just balls with no hair on em’ yet.

  7. I’m assuming that this is the yearbook photo, which are usually taken at school. Also might note that picking random photos for the yearbook is and should be up to the yearbook staff and advisors.

    I was pissed when my yearbook staff rejected the picture of me drag racing Brian Babcock up Springdale Avenue, but I didn’t call the ACLU.

  8. TWC,
    Nowhere in either article did it say the photo was taken on school grounds. In fact, based on the look of the photo, I would say it wasn’t taken by a professional either.

  9. Rhode Island school bans talking at lunch after choking incidents

    Wow! That takes risk-aversion to eleven.

  10. Is the “Society for Creative Anachronism” a school sanctioned society that meets on school grounds, or is it some private club with no affiliation with the school system?

    Private club of Mideval Re-creationists.
    Offical site: http://www.sca.org/

  11. TWC- I believe that this was a senior picture, taken off site. At least in my high school, the seniors supplied their own yearbook pictures with ones that they had taken by private photographers (for ridiculous sums of money).

  12. Public schools once again teach a valuable lesson to future generations about how no amount of power is too petty to abuse.

    You nailed it Ron. That is definitely the lesson for today.

  13. After taking a look at the photo in question from Kwix’s link, I’m pretty sure that the school was trying to do him a favor by keeping it out of the yearbook.

  14. I wonder if the ACLU would have taken the case if the kid was in blackface.

    Bottom line: America’s schools are a freak show. They answer is not to regulate them. The solution to the problem is to abolish government schooling.

  15. Actually, the ACLU has taken cases in which students wanted to pose with firearms.

    There was one last year – I think the kid had a muzzle-loader.

  16. I wonder if the ACLU would have taken the case if the kid was in blackface.

    Possibly not, but methinks there’s a bit of difference between dressing to offend and dressing to be a total geek.

  17. I’m not sure why he called the ACLU instead of simply casting a charm spell. Maybe he hasn’t reached fourth level yet.

    I agree with Dave B. The principal was doing him a favor. Still a paternalistic and arbitrary abuse of power, but you’d hate to run into the kid 10 years later and have him ask “Why did you let me put that photo in the yearbook? I didn’t get laid until three years out of college!”

  18. Possibly not, but methinks there’s a bit of difference between dressing to offend and dressing to be a total geek.
    He’s not a total geek, he’s four levels away from “total” geek.

  19. Thanks, Kwix. I’m not sure the private association part matters, I just needed more info prior to forming an opinion. If it were a school sanctioned society, the answer would be easier.

    If it is a private, off campus club, I’m not sure the yearbook staff should be compelled to publish the picture. Maybe I’m missing something, but what is the argument in favor of the courts dictating what high school yearbook staffs can and cannot publish in their own yearbook?

  20. Huh, let’s try that link again shall we?

  21. If it is a private, off campus club, I’m not sure the yearbook staff should be compelled to publish the picture.

    Cab,
    By the same token, if the school requests privately taken photos for the “senior pictures”, and has no rules in place restricting certain elements from appearing in the photos (eg. no nudity, midriffs, vulgar shirts, air guitar poses or weapons), then I don’t see how they could prohibit the publication of said photo. They requested that the students “express themselves” and that is just what the kid did. I am quite sure that this will result in a rewrite of the rules regarding yearbook photos.

  22. I’m not ducking your response – I just have to leave work.

  23. It’s quite possible that nobody asked the ACLU to get involved in this case. Perhaps they assumed they wouldn’t. Anyway you normally do have to ask the ACLU to get involved unless the case has generated a lot of media attention.

    School board sides with school on yearbook photo with gun

    October 14, 2004

    By Beverley Wang Associated Press

    LONDONDERRY, N.H. – The Londonderry School Board has voted unanimously to ban a picture of a pupil posing with a shotgun from the senior photo section from the Londonderry High School yearbook.

    This was the first relevant story that showed up googling “high school yearbook, gun” and the only one that showed up on the first page of results.

  24. So, based on her article today, according to Kwix’s link, where does Cathy Young fit in?

  25. Sorry, the case I was referring to in my first sentence was the one in the story I linked to not the one Ron Bailey was posting about.

  26. My high school had pretty explicit rules about senior photos, down to the background color and the amount of space the head/face had to take up in the frame (as well as the size of the photo). But if there’s no such overall rule, I can’t see any justification for restriction of this one dork.

  27. “Society of Creative Anachronism.”

    More like the Society of Creative Celibacy, I’d say.

    As to the lesson to be learned, I’d say young Patrick received ample reinforcement of the lesson that “thank the fucking gods this 12 years of torture is almost over!” Except for the dumb jocks, I know of no one who treasures the memories of the “best years of their lives.”

  28. Kwix & I Self, thanks for the input, see I’m just old and when I was a prisoner, er, student we lined up and the dude with the camera snapped a lousy photo that doubled as both the high school photo and the yearbook photo.

    If this was a photo supplied by the kid and had nothing to do with on-campus behavior, then I retract somewhat. I had the image of some guy standing in a long line, waiting for the photograph to be taken, with a broadsword in hand that would have gotten him expelled if he brought it on campus under any other circumstances.

    Isaac, thanks for the link. I am actually surprised to see that in a yearbook. Yes, you generally have to ask ACLU to get involved, my point is that they would likely decline. As they generally do for most cases (say for tax cases) that do not fit the narrow agenda they pursue.

  29. “Dimes to Donuts the ACLU wouldn’t have been quite so quick to invoke the 1st Amendement if the kid was wanting his picture taken in a Coonskin Cap with a Flintlock slung over his shoulder.”

    FWIW, the Portmouth sports teams are The Patriots and the mascot (as the ACLU guy points out) is Revolutionary War soldier carrying a rifle.

  30. Chriso, actually it’s the Society of Massive Countercultural Orgies. Come to one of the big conventions–every night there’s wild partying and debauchery like nothing out of this century.

    There are geeks who don’t get laid, and then there are geeks who get laid often and repeatedly with one another in interesting ways. The SCA is very much the latter.

  31. “I had the image of some guy standing in a long line, waiting for the photograph to be taken, with a broadsword in hand that would have gotten him expelled if he brought it on campus under any other circumstances.”

    He probably wanted to wear his chainmail to class, though.

    By the time I was in high school, the seniors got a bigger picture in the yearbook and had to supply their own photo. What this meant is that the male students went from the standard issue sophomore/junior small photo with unkempt hair and eyes shut, to a larger photo with unkempt hair *and an ill-fitting suit*. Big improvement. And inevitably the stoner dudes were pictured in their usual stoner clothes in front of some fake “rustic” scene.

    I hear that in these days of hyperparenting that the yearbooks are a much more deluxe affair than they were 20 years ago.

  32. “Chriso, actually it’s the Society of Massive Countercultural Orgies. Come to one of the big conventions–every night there’s wild partying and debauchery like nothing out of this century.”

    Oh yeah, I’ve heard of the SCA and was really just making a joke at the expense of poor Mr. Agin. I’m married now, so the partying/debauchery thing is a little more problematic. Anyway, I’m a metal musician, so I have other outlets for that sort of thing…

  33. I agree with Sidney – government schooling should be abolished. Yearbooks are run by the ASB, not school officials. It is produced by students, and the money goes back to the ASB. If the picture doesn’t violate any of their rules, the school doesn’t have the right to deny its publication. (OK, it doesn’t have the right no matter what, but here it REALLY doesn’t have the right)

  34. One of the bigger mistakes of my youth was a relationship with someone who was deeeeply involved in the SCA. The weekend/overnight events were like high school cast productions of Caligula. Garbed up like this and armed with a wineskin full of Manischewitz, this kid could choose from a wide array of wenchy teenage nerdgirls eager to share a night of fumbling passion.

  35. It’s better nowadays. The costumes look much nicer and less theater-castoff, the alcohol is better (there’s now a lot of period brewing, and beer how it was meant to be made is so much better than the modern industrial piss that I no longer drink the latter), and the women are indeed hotter than they used to be.

    Of course, the people who are ridiculously overinvolved are scary, but that’s true for every subculture.

  36. They still won’t let me pose in my Dr. Evil outfit with my nuke.

  37. “Rhode Island school bans talking at lunch after choking incidents”

    I really don’t know why we even let kids out of their padded cells- they might get hurt.

  38. TWC

    Isaac, thanks for the link. I am actually surprised to see that in a yearbook. Yes, you generally have to ask ACLU to get involved, my point is that they would likely decline.

    Note that, in fact, “[t]he Londonderry School Board…voted unanimously to ban a picture of a pupil posing with a shotgun”. So it did not actually appear in the yearbook.

    And I am not convinced that they would have declined in this case. It is true that many ACLU members are (like many NRA members) selective “civil libertarians”* I think many would see this as a free expression issue rather than a second amendment one.

    ACLU decisions are made to a large extent by people in local chapters, so if you feel the ACLU is not doing enough on second amendment or taxation issues perhaps you need to get active with your local organization.

    *It is true that many are so busy looking for “rights” in the shadows of the Constitution that they miss the ones that are out in the glaring light.

  39. The five-member board backed a compromise offered by the school that would allow senior Blake Douglass to have the photo published in a “community sports” section…

    My mistake. On a second reading I see that a compromise was actually reached that allowed the picture to be published in a different section.

    Still, we have certainly come a long way from the days when schools, even ones in urban centers, had shooting teams they bragged about and boys in rural schools would take their twenty-twos and four-tens to school so they could shoot rabbits in the fields on the way home.

  40. “Rhode Island school bans talking at lunch after choking incidents”

    Private school, btw.

  41. I just know one thing from reading this post.

    That young man is never, ever, going to get laid. Chainmail and a sword may be worse than being a trekie (in terms of getting laid).

  42. Which reminds me….

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Af1OxkFOK18

    I am not trying to make a point, this is just funny, bruce campell rocks!

  43. hmmm….not sure if that link will work. Just go to youtube, type in “old spice” and a commerical with Bruce Campbell will pop up. It is the good one (59 secs) instead of the crappy one (about 10
    or 15 secs)

  44. Or how about in a Green Beret outfit wielding an M-16
    =================================
    hums…

    bursts into song…

    Fighting soldiers from the sky
    Fearless men who jump and die

    Now see what you’ve done? I’ve never been able to get this song out of my head, and now I’m sentenced to another 3 weeks of it.

  45. kcjerith,

    See above commments–the SCA is a hive of debauchery.

    In a larger sense, I would like to know what’s up with the geekbashy continued insinuations that the guy is a big dork will never get laid. Aside from their falsity, they bear a sort of snarky malice that seems, well, immature and out of place.

  46. In a larger sense, I would like to know what’s up with the geekbashy continued insinuations that the guy is a big dork will never get laid. Aside from their falsity, they bear a sort of snarky malice that seems, well, immature and out of place.

    Thou speakest God’s own truth, m’lord!

    — Sir Dorkington of Dorkchester

  47. Back in the early seventies and during my long-haired times we had a yearbook photographer (his idea) take a picture of a few of us in the toilet with our pants down around our ankles and we sticking our heads out of the stalls. He wanted to caption it “Hippys on Pot”
    but the advisor said no way….Ahhh……days of me bygone youth. Such is life

  48. er- make that hippies on pot

    Good luck

  49. I gotta back up jb on this one. When I was attending SCA events at the age of 16 (although I was never a member, I still admit that I am a total dork), there was so much alcohol and sex going on that it was intense.

    Of course, I was still rather clumsy when it came to sex, and I’m not saying that all the ladies were super hot (but not bad-looking either, mostly just plain at worst), but I never had a dull moment. Plus, you’d hang out over a number of days during big events, so things could get crazy, and evolve into even crazierness over the course of a weekend.

    I have not been to anything like that in about 17 years, though, so who knows how it is these days.

  50. Seems the last thing on School administrators minds these days is actually making sure kids learn something. Some NJ school board wants to alcohol test kids along with the piss test. My question would be can they pass a fucking math test?

  51. Lowdog: Hotter women (also including, among others, to be honest, probably the same women you knew, 17 years older), better clothing, more historical accuracy (and more people who are anal about that stuff, although they’re nearly always polite enough not to bug you about it), same antics.

    In few other places could you have this exchange:

    Friend 1: Hey, did you hear that friend 2 hooked up with random girl?
    Friend 3(involved with friend 2): Well, everyone’s poly, so it should be OK. Is she pretty?

  52. “In a larger sense, I would like to know what’s up with the geekbashy continued insinuations that the guy is a big dork will never get laid.”

    maybe if you went to sir lord and lady fancypancetonshire high school in nottingham forest, you might have a point. the rest of us went to football and cheerleaders HS in the real world.

    of course, nerdosity is far more acceptable these days, and anything can happen.

  53. On a more relevant thread, look at today’s Daily Brickbat. The pettiness of the administration there makes this administration look positively mature.

    (BTW, Dhex, the local fighting practice where I live has a former NFL defensive lineman as an instructor)

  54. “In a larger sense, I would like to know what’s up with the geekbashy continued insinuations that the guy is a big dork will never get laid. Aside from their falsity, they bear a sort of snarky malice that seems, well, immature and out of place.”

    Hey, just calling ’em like I see ’em. And my geek quotient was rather high in my schooldays, so I know what that’s all about. I’ve long told people that my life effectively began in college.

  55. I just find it strange that a group whose signature characteristics include beating the shit out of each other for fun and having drunken orgies seems to have the image of a bunch of asexual nerds.

  56. “I just find it strange that a group whose signature characteristics include beating the shit out of each other for fun and having drunken orgies seems to have the image of a bunch of asexual nerds.”

    Anyone who wants to dress in medieval costumery is automatically going to be taken for an undersexed LARPer, even if the CSA folks are actually more akin to sword-wielding hippies..

  57. Chainmail and a sword may be worse than being a trekie (in terms of getting laid).

    Trust me more people get laid at the Society for Creative Anachronism/Sealed Knot events than they do at Trekkie conventions.

    Lets see some women dressed up as a wench or dressed as a normal trekkie…maybe even with faux bits stuck on….you do the math?

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