The West Virginia eighth-grader arrested after refusing a teacher's demand he remove a National Rifle Association T-shirt he wore to school won't face criminal charges after all.
Jared Marcum, 14, was charged with obstruction following the April 18 incident after police who were called to Logan Middle School school said he refused to stop talking. The case generated national headlines, as Marcum's family and attorney, Ben White, claimed the demand that he remove the NRA shirt violated his right to freedom of speech. On Thursday, Logan County Circuit Judge Eric O'Briant signed an order dismissing the charge.
"It should have come sooner but it's done and we don't have to have that concern anymore about him having a criminal record."
- Allen Lardieri, Jared Marcum's father
Marcum's mother, Tanya Lardieri, told WOWK that she was overcome with emotion after signing a dismissal order relating to the charge. The boy’s father, Allen Lardieri, said the couple is just glad Eric’s legal troubles are behind him.
"It should have come sooner but it's done and we don't have to have that concern anymore about him having a criminal record,” Allen Lardieri told WOWK. "I'm just glad that it's over. His mother is glad it's over."
After he was charged, Marcum faced up to a year in jail and a $500 fine. Although the charge related to the boy's behavior after the incident began, White said the school's unreasonable demand that he take off the shirt caused the situation to get out of control.
"We at this point believe that Jared acted as mature as a 14-year-old child can act with the pressure that was put on him," White told The Associated Press.
The school's dress code gives wide enforcement discretion to educators.
“If in the judgment of the administration, a student is dressed inappropriately, the student will be required to change clothes or cover up inappropriate clothing before returning to classes,” the code reads.
After Marcum was arrested, students throughout Logan County wore similar NRA shirts in a show of solidarity. And on Monday, the boy was summoned back to court as prosecutors sought to have a gag order imposed on him and his family. They claimed Jared and his father talking to the press about the case was not in the boy's interest, a rationale his own attorney rejected.
"We were here because the prosecution filed a motion for a gag order," White said on Monday. "My opinion is because, seemingly, they want to take it out of the court of public opinion."
But on Thursday, after reviewing statements from the arresting officer and the school's principal, White said he and a prosecutor agreed that creating a criminal record for Marcum wasn't a good idea.
"I didn't think it would go this far because, honestly, I don't see a problem with [the shirt],” Jared Marcum told WOWK in April. “There shouldn't be a problem with this.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.