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Williamstown teen becomes a First Amendment poster boy

Zachary Guiles

By Shay Totten | Vermont Guardian

Posted January 28, 2005

At 14, Zachary Guiles is a focused and thoughtful citizen. He plays first trombone in the Vermont Youth Symphony Orchestra, likes to ride his dirt bike and to read — especially Michael Moore’s books. And he has a good relationship with both of his parents.

He’s not the kind of kid you’d expect to hear of getting banned from school and winding up in court. But last year, that’s what happened — all because of a T-shirt Zach wore to school — a shirt he had worn numerous times without raising an eyebrow.

The message on the shirt calls Pres. George W. Bush “Chicken-Hawk-In-Chief,” referring to the gaps in Bush’s military career as a reservist. It appears that school officials didn’t object to the political message. Rather, they took issue with the caricature of the image of the president drinking and snorting cocaine.

School officials say Zach’s shirt violated the Williamstown Middle High School dress code, which reads: “Any aspect of a person’s appearance, which otherwise constitutes a real hazard to the health and safety of self and others or is otherwise distracting, is unacceptable as an expression of personal taste.” As an example, it lists clothing that displays alcohol or drugs as being prohibited.

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