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Supremes OK Student's Anti-Bush T-Shirt

Zachary Guiles wears the T-shirt that was banned from his seventh-grade school in Williamstown, Vt,. in this photo from May 14, 2004. The U.S. Supreme Court rejected Williamstown Middle School's appeal of a ruling that said the school violated the student's rights by censoring his anti-President Bush shirt. (AP Photo/The Times Argus, David Delcore)
AP / David Delcore, Times Argus
The original T-Shirt is too small now, but Zachary Guiles has one just like it, a size larger. Highly critical of President Bush, it triggered a legal battle that lasted Guiles from seventh grade to the brink of his senior year.

The U.S. Supreme Court on Friday rejected an appeal by the Williamstown school district of a ruling that it violated Guiles' rights by censoring his T-shirt.

"I'm extremely glad that they didn't decide to try to overturn the case. The appeals court decision was very well thought out and very well stated," Guiles said in an interview from Massachusetts, where the gifted young trombonist is studying this summer at Tanglewood, the summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra.

Guiles attended a peace rally with his father, Tim Guiles, where he bought a T-shirt bearing images of cocaine and a martini glass — but also had messages calling President Bush a lying drunk driver who abused cocaine and marijuana, and the "chicken-hawk-in-chief" who was engaged in a "world domination tour."

He wore it to school about once a week for a couple of months without incident, before the school's cheerleading coach raised an alarm about it when she was chaperoning a trip to the Statehouse, Tim Guiles said.

The young Guiles was told to turn his shirt inside out, cover the offending images with duct tape or change clothes. He refused, and missed the trip to the Statehouse, he recalled.

Then-Assistant Principal Seth Marineau told Guiles the shirt violated the school's policy against images alcohol and other drugs.

On Friday, Marineau, who left the school district for educational consulting in 2005, said he had no problem with the court's decision.

"I think that the court knows what it's doing and it's enforcing its rules or its interpretation of the law," he said. "It went through the court system. Whatever they have decided is proper."

The Guileses, helped by the American Civil Liberties Union, argued that the shirt's message was much less about promoting drug use than about politics — political views highly critical of Bush.

"They were entirely negative," Zachary Guiles said of the shirt's drug images. "They were an incredibly stupid thing that the president has done. It was pointing out the inadequacy of the president, certainly not promoting them (drugs) in any way, shape or form."

On Monday, the court ruled that schools could regulate student expression if it appeared to promote use of illegal drugs. That ruling involved a teenager in Alaska who unveiled a banner at a school-sanctioned event saying "Bong Hits For Jesus."

But in that decision, Justice Samuel Alito cautioned that schools could not censor political speech.

The case is Marineau v. Guiles, 06-757.