KoЯn T-Shirt Flap Begs Question "What's In A Name?"

[ Photo by MTV News ]
"KoЯn" is a four-letter word, but is it offensive?

One assistant principal in Western Michigan seems to think so as she has suspended a student for wearing a T-shirt that simply carries the band's name.

Eric VanHoven, an 18-year-old junior, was suspended from Zeeland High School (which is southwest of Grand Rapids) last Thursday after Assistant Principal Gretchen Plewes deemed the shirt offensive.

In explaining her action to the "Holland Sentinel," Plewes said she found the shirt offensive more for the band's body of work than the content of the shirt itself.

"The group called Korn is one of three groups that I'm familiar with that had extremely offensive lyrics," Plewes told the paper. "Korn is indecent, vulgar, obscene, and intends to be insulting. It is no different than a person wearing a middle finger on their shirt."

Of course, VanHoven and many of his classmates disagree. 

VanHoven told MTV News that he has been wearing the shirt to school without incident for more than a year, and that he doesn't know what has precipitated the crackdown.

Shortly after his one-day suspension, VanHoven's friends tried to rally support by circulating a petition around the school, and have chalked up 200 signatures so far, including a few parents. VanHoven said they hope to present the petition to the school board the next time the group meets on March 16.

In another show of solidarity, VanHoven and approximately ten of his friends donned T-shirts depicting their favorite bands (including Tool, Filter, and Nirvana) to test the waters at Zeeland High on Monday. The result: VanHoven found himself with a two-day suspension for wearing a Tool shirt, while his best friend Matt Maldonado was suspended for wearing a Korn shirt.

Maldonado told the "Sentinel" that many share their view that the suspensions amount to a violation of their basic rights. "Hicks, preps, rappers, people from all different cliques are signing this (petition) because they're afraid the school will ban something else next," Maldonado told the "Sentinel."

However, Plewes is sticking to her guns, and her assertion that the word "Korn" has no place in her school. Zeeland High was closed on Tuesday due to snow, so officials could not be reached for comment, but Plewes did tell the "Sentinel," "We're not taking away freedoms. We just have to have standards."

MTV News on 10th March 1998


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