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Kid whose school banned him from wearing Wolverines shirt now a hero in Michigan

Aug 24, 2012, 9:00 AM EDT


Friday’s Morning Mail: Hail to the Victor.

That would be Cooper Barton, 5, whose love of Michigan football caused big controversy at his school in Oklahoma City. Now after his principal banned Cooper from wearing a Michigan “Big House” t-shirt at school, the university has reached out to support the young Wolverines fan in a big way.

Eevn though he lives hundreds of miles away, 5-year-old Cooper is a big man on campus in Ann Arbor: Michigan students rallied to his defense, and university athletic director David Brandon invited Cooper and his family to a football game vs. UMass on Sept. 15 at the Big House.

As you may recall, Cooper was told he couldn’t wear his Michigan shirt at school, per school district policy. His principal made him turn the shirt inside out for the remainder of the school day.

Video here.

So Michigan AD Brandon awarded Cooper with a shirt that reads ‘Michigan’ on both sides, inside and out. He also said that Cooper would be introduced at halftime on Sept. 15. Detroit Free Press:

“The outpouring of support from U-M is amazing,” Chris Barton told the Free Press today. “Shannon grew up in Michigan, Traverse City, and her brother-in-law lives outside Detroit and is a season ticket holder.”

Barton said the family was initially irritated at the school’s decision — Cooper’s older brother Nathan had worn U-M shirts without incident — but the result has been “amazing.”

Asked if Cooper might end up attending Michigan University, Mrs. Barton said: “I don’t think he has a choice.”

The OKC school district policy forbids sports-themed apparel, except for University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State clothing. The district says it is reviewing the policy.


What you missed while staying home due to the white power rally

  • headline: Lance Armstrong’s time in France rubs off as he surrenders to U.S. Anti-Doping Agency.

Meanwhile, above the mountains …

  1. southernpatriots - Aug 24, 2012 at 12:37 PM

    U of Michigan is doing a good thing here. Money could not buy the good publicity. The brazenly un-Constitutional rule by the school system should be challenged by an enterprising attorney in Oklahoma City, maybe a graduate of Oklahoma or Oklahoma State to truly demonstrate the rule which is both arbitrary and capricious. Freedom of speech, restraint of trade, violations of interstate commerce clause, and many other possible violations of the Bill of Rights, U.S. Constitution, and other laws and regulations make this case ripe for an attorney to make a name for him/herself.

    I know other universities who wish that Cooper was wearing their shirt, the University of Texas comes to mind first.

    The principal should be ashamed of his/herself.

    Fans of Michigan may send Cooper many other things before this story is done.

    • skeeterjennings - Aug 26, 2012 at 4:13 AM

      I’m not sure how any reasonable person would think this situation is brazenly un-Constitutional.
      The US Supreme Court ruled, about thirty years ago, that school students have virtually no reasonable expectation to expression or free speech while on school grounds, and the State of Oklahoma allows school systems to set guidelines for dress, including uniforms, which young Mr. Barton apparently does not have to wear, unlike most students in the state. The child’s family was not prevented from purchasing the shirt, nor the U of M from selling it, so there has been no “restraint of trade” or “violations of interstate commerce clause.” The principal does not set district policy, just faces losing their job for not following it. A child (innocently, I would guess) violated the dress code, and that should be the end of the story (or it should have never been a story, really) but a bunch of adults are reacting like children, creating a controversy where there should be none.

      I would assume any enterprising attorney worth their salt would be too busy dealing with an actual issue or crime, maybe doing something to combat the gang violence in Oklahoma City that caused this rule in the first place, or even just simply earning a living in their chosen profession. What I don’t expect to see from an “enterprising attorney”, or anyone with common sense, really, is a sense of outrage or a need to waste any time at all because a five-year-old learned that life has rules.

      • 4356gejm - Aug 27, 2012 at 1:11 PM

        Time out for a little lesson in constitutional law. The previous commenter admittedly threw the kitchen sink, but among the detritus is a claim. While many cases have held that schools have wide latitude to restrain students’ speech, in every one of those cases the holding is premised on proof that 1) the school has a legitimate interest in restraining the speech, and 2) that the restraint reasonable, i.e. not arbitrary, and that it is narrowly tailored to meet that interest without unduly impinging on the right to free expression. That’s what the Supreme Court says is needed in all cases of prior restraint of free expression. Here the rule, purporting to address the alleged wearing of gang colors, bans all but Oklahoma team wear. No question that dealing with gang activity is a legitimate interest, but does banning all but Oklahoma team wear advance that interest in a non-arbitrary way? Does the board contend that no gang members ever wear Oklahoma colors? Or are they saying gangs wearing Oklahoma colors are ok, but not ones wearing Michigan colors? Of course if they banned all colors, we wouldn’t be here. But the Okies couldn’t help themselves, couldn’t bear the thought of their little ones being denied the legacy of Barry Switzer on their clothing, and so passed a rule setting aside a special exception for them. And therein lies the claim that the rule violates the First Amendment.

  2. silverdeer - Aug 25, 2012 at 1:46 PM

    I just hope he doesn’t develop into a stud athlete. 13 years from now the NCAA, in their infinite wisdom, will look back at this and throw the book at U-M for violating some undetermined number of recruiting rules.

  3. muhangis - Sep 8, 2012 at 11:02 PM

    Dear skeeterjennings (a.k.a. nitwit), since you’re such a constitutional law expert (??) please explain in you’re very bureaucratic sense why these students are permitted to wear an OU or OSU sports t-shirt but not one of another team’s. I challenge you to explain that.