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Hoorah for freedom of speech and expression!

Crazy place, is the USA.


Student's refusal to adjust cap leads to arrest, controversy

Emily Bittner
The Arizona Republic
Mar. 12, 2004 02:50 PM

SCOTTSDALE - By most accounts, Marlon Morgan is a good kid.

The soft-spoken junior plays basketball for Saguaro High School. His mother works two jobs - one as a teacher - to afford living in Scottsdale so he can attend the city's schools. He was nominated for Youth of the Year last year by a branch of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Scottsdale.

So many are surprised and upset that the 17-year-old Morgan was arrested and jailed last week over his refusal to adjust wearing his baseball hat from the side to the front.

his friends, family and the local NAACP took action.

His classmates wore "Free Marlon" T-shirts and staged a protest that resulted in another student being suspended for 10 days. His family criticized both police and school officials' handling of the incident. The local chapter of the NAACP and Marlon's mother are meeting Wednesday with Scottsdale Police Chief Alan Rodbell and Scottsdale Unified School District officials.

School officials and police defend their actions.

Marlon was suspended for three days, beginning Monday when Saguaro returns from spring break.

Marlon was sitting in the school cafeteria when Saguaro security guards asked him to turn his hat around and he refused saying he felt singled out.

It is against school policy to wear hats sideways because it can be a sign of disrespect for authority, the police report said, but Marlon, who is Black, said that the rule is enforced selectively. According to a police report, he pointed to several White students whose hats were on sideways.

"Usually I don't have a problem, (but) when you walk around you see everyone else with their hats like that, I just kind of got fed up with it," he told The Arizona Republic.

When Marlon wouldn't do as the security guard asked, two school assistant principals and a Scottsdale police officer assigned to the school were called in.

The teen stayed defiant, refusing to go to the school office as instructed.

Assistant Principal Steve Salcito finally told Morgan he was being suspended for insubordination and that he was trespassing on school grounds, according to the police report.

Morgan was taken to police headquarters, where he was fingerprinted, photographed and kept in a jail cell for several hours. He was held on suspicion of disorderly conduct, failure to obey a police officer, trespassing and interfering or disrupting an educational institution.

While Morgan and his mother, Bobbie, said his behavior was rebellious, they denounced the school's reaction as "uncalled for."

"It was pretty upsetting," Marlon Morgan said. "I shouldn't have had to walk out of there in handcuffs in front of all my friends."

But Tom Herrmann, a spokesman for the school district, said the guards and principals acted appropriately. He declined to comment on specifics.

The Rev. Oscar Tillman, the head of the local NAACP and a former school board member, said schools rely too heavily on police officers to resolve conflict.

"I would not even dream of the principal or security calling in the police," Tillman said. "Police are not the disciplinarians for the school."



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