Wednesday, a Missouri sixth-grader was verbally and physically attacked by another student for wearing a "Make America Great Again" hat. Much of the incident was captured on a cell phone.
During the confrontation, another student can be heard yelling: "You wanna build a wall? You wanna build a f***ing [unintelligible]?!"
After the fight, three students involved were suspended, including the victim, Gavin. According to KMOV, the school district released the following statement Monday:
On Wednesday, February 1, three students got into an argument on an after-school activity bus at Parkway West Middle School over a hat worn by one of the students. Two of the students got into a physical altercation with both students striking each other in the face. The third student videotaped a portion of the incident, verbally escalated the confrontation and posted it online. The entire incident was captured on internal video cameras on the school bus, which was used by the school to conduct a full investigation and gather all the facts.
As a result, all three students have received suspensions in accordance with Parkway’s student discipline policy. Upon completion of suspensions, the three students will participate in a restorative mediation process to help learn to resolve their differences in a peaceful and respectful manner.
We regret that this incident occurred as it does not reflect the positive character we expect from our students. We will continue to work together with students, staff and families to ensure all students learn to treat each other with dignity and respect.
It seems peculiar that all three students, including Gavin, would be suspended for this incident. It's impossible to know, given the information provided, if Gavin instigated the fight in any way. However, if he didn't -- if all he did was physically defend himself -- a suspension is certainly out of order.
Gavin told KMOV:
"At one point, he just got so frustrated, he pushed me...and then he kept hitting me and backing me up to like, my window of the bus, and so I just had to push him out."
Gavin's mother, Christina Cortina, doesn't seem to think the suspension is fair, saying:
"As a parent, it's so upsetting because my son doesn't need to be made the example for this...I saw him being persecuted for having an opinion of his own. I saw him being berated, and bullied, and beat--literally beat because he feels strongly about the world today."
The suspension could easily be the result of an overly-broad student discipline policy that punishes anyone involved in an altercation. There's also the possibility that the district is playing politics, staving off a potential headache if parents complain that pro-Trump apparel constitutes hate speech. Such a complaint isn't outside the realm of possibility.
Unless and until more is known, this is simply an unfortunate circumstance.