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Gun on Memorial Shirts Causing Controversy at School

By Natalie Potts
By npotts@wbbjtv.com

HENRY COUNTY, Tenn.- Students at Henry County High School are outraged that their memorial shirt made for fellow classmate has been banned on campus.

School officials told WBBJ 7 Eyewitness News that the shirt was banned because of its shotgun image across the front. The shirt was made for sophomore Steven Ray Rushing, 16, who was killed nearly two months ago in a tragic four wheeling accident.

"After his death I just wanted to make a shirt to keep something and to have something to just to remember him by," said Sophomore Lacy Phifer, Rushing's cousin.

Phifer said designing a shirt for her cousin was easy for he was known to have a heart for hunting, fishing shooting. Family members had a memorial shirt made that said, " Shoot High in Heaven" with the symbol of a shotgun. Phifer said after dozens of student's had the shirts made, the shirts were banned on campus for its shotgun symbol.

"They told me that it's highly inappropriate and we never need to see them at school again and that its my job to tell everyone," said Phifer. "It has nothing to do with guns. It's all about Steven and his memory, what he liked to do."

School officials said the shirt was banned due to their school policy.
Which labels anything promoting alcohol, drugs and or weapons as distracting. Since students in the past have been asked to change out of shirts that displayed images of weapons, school officials said they
felt the need to be fair and consistent.

"Basically I can't use one little symbol on a shirt just to help me remember him by," said Phifer.

Parents and students said they believe the ruling is unfair since the high school's mascot is a patriot holding a rifle. Students said the school's logo is worn on student and faculty shirts.

"You have patriots in war and those rifles were used for killing people, so you're telling me we can wear school shirts that have a patriot with a rifle on it but I can't wear a memorial shirt for a loved one with a shotgun on it for deer hunting?"

So far, only one middle school in within the city's district has allowed students to wear the t-shirt. The Henry County School superintendent's office told WBBJ 7 Eyewitness News that the policy is broadly written and it is up to each school's principle to determine what is and is not appropriate.

Rushing's family members said the money raised through the shirts helped one of their local Boy Scout groups in Steven's name.