OMAHA, Neb. (CN) – Students say their high school unconstitutionally suspended them for wearing T-shirts with the message “R.I.P.” in honor of a murdered friend. Ironically, the students say their friend was killed for refusing to join a gang; then the Millard Public Schools accused them of putting “gang slang” – R.I.P. – on their T-shirts.
The plaintiffs, three siblings at Millard South Public High School in Omaha, say school officials told them to change their T-shirts or be suspended for wearing “gang slang.”
(Requiescat in pace and its acronym, R.I.P., have been used for more than 1,000 years on tombstones and other monuments.)
In this federal complaint, Jeanne Kuhr says her son, Dan Kuhr, designed the R.I.P. shirts after his friend Julius Robinson was murdered by a gang. Dan designed the shirt to honor Robinson’s life, and to help his family with funeral expenses.
The T-shirt stated: “Julius RIP, 6-8-90, 6-15-08,” and bore two pictures of Robinson and his football number, 33. On the back were the words, “Only God Can Judge Me/Him Now.”
Kuhr says school officials allowed students to wear the shirts several times before deciding it was gang-related. Then over the course of three days 20 students were suspended for wearing the R.I.P. shirt.
The Kuhrs say students are allowed to wear other shirts with messages, and to use notebooks and personal items which bear the R.I.P. statement.
The Kuhr family says they raised $2,000 for Robinson’s family by selling the R.I.P. T-shirts, and holding a car wash, a fish fry and a raffle.
They seek declaratory and injunctive relies, and costs. They are represented by W. Craig Howell.