Photo by Bryce Owen ’17 | Students face no official restrictions on political paraphernalia on campus.
By Anthony Cardellini ’17
Despite reports of teachers telling students to remove Donald Trump stickers and clothing from the classroom, Principal Mr. Bob Ryan said that the school will not adopt a definitive policy on whether students can wear these politically related items.
“We do not have a long list of do’s and don’ts as you might find at other schools,” Mr. Ryan said. “Instead we have principles that we expect teachers to operate within: critical thinking, Christian charity, respect for the dignity of people, dialogue and free and rigorous exchange of ideas.”
He said that the faculty has had discussions on how to handle the rise of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, but that no policy has yet emerged from these talks.
“It’s something we’ve talked about as a faculty: How are we going to handle this Trump phenomenon?”
He said that he is unsure of what the response of faculty members should be, because he is fearful of a perceived bias if teachers act.
“I don’t know the right way to respond, because you have one candidate that has said some pretty targeted and ugly, divisive comments about some groups of people that exist on our campus,” he said. “They equate him with a direct threat to their own livelihood.”
Republican Club Co-President Greyson Beck ’17 said that he stands in support of a school that allows its students to wear paraphernalia for either candidate.
He said that if the school decided to ban Trump paraphernalia, they would also have to ban things in support of Hillary Clinton.
“You don’t want [the school] to show a political bias toward a certain candidate,” Beck said.
He said that students could feel offended by Clinton paraphernalia as much as they may be by that of Trump.
“I’m for saying ‘look, if you’re going to wear Trump stuff, you can wear Clinton stuff too.’ Because then it shows the political diversity of campus.”
Young Democrats member Michael Ruta ’17 said he agrees that students should be able to wear the political paraphernalia of their choice, whether it be in support of Trump or Clinton.
“You should be allowed freedom of speech and expression,” Ruta said.
He said he believes that being a Trump supporter does not mean a person supports all of his policies.
“The student that was supporting Trump has nothing to do with what Trump is doing,” he said.
Ruta said he understands the fear that some students have when it comes to Trump being elected, but also admitted some Republicans are fearful of a Clinton presidency.
Mr. Ryan affirmed that politics play an important role in classroom discussions, though he said these discussions don’t have to mention candidates by name.
“We want the classroom to be a place where there is the free and rigorous exchange of ideas,” he said. “I would say and expect that teachers advocate policy positions more than strict adherence to a certain party. There’s no candidate out there that embraces the breadth and the totality of Catholic social teaching.”
There have been several incidents on campus where a student has offended another student by wearing Trump stickers and clothing.
Mr. Ryan said that in this situation he would speak to the student advocating for Trump and decide where to go from there.
“I think I would talk to the student and get a sense for why he’s in support of Trump and why he wants to have his bumper sticker or whatever, and my way of proceeding would depend on his answer,” he said.
Beck said that banning Trump garb would have a negative effect on the Republican club.
“I think it would hurt the spirit on campus,” he said. “The cool thing about a high school campus is that kids are just starting to form their political views.”
He said paraphernalia is important to being able to express political preferences.
“Because we have a strict dress code, a lot of that is shown through a sticker,” he said.
Beck said that the Republican Club plans to hand out Trump stickers in the mall in late September, while Ruta said the Young Democrats handed out Clinton stickers at the club fair.