MARSHALLTOWN, Iowa (AP) – A Marshalltown high school student has asked a judge to block a three-game football suspension he received for making a “W” hand signal that school administrators said was a show of support for white power.
Blair Van Staalduine, 17, sought the injunction Monday in district court, the Marshalltown Times-Republican reported (http://bit.ly/1v73t1F ).
He acknowledged making the “W” sign last spring during a school spirit day, but said it was because he was wearing white.
A photo showing Van Staalduine and other students making the gesture surfaced months later, and high school activities director Craig Huegel testified that the students, including Van Staalduine, acknowledged it was a white power sign.
Van Staalduine denied making the statement to Huegel.
Administrators said swim team coach Mike Loupee had warned Van Staalduine and other members of the swim team after they made a different-looking “W” hand gesture.
Van Staalduine said the earlier gesture was for white power, but he called it “something to joke about.”
Marshalltown school Superintendent Marvin Wade testified that the high school developed a culture where racist signs aren’t tolerated after a racially charged fight at the school in 2011. Van Staalduine wasn’t involved in that fight, Wade said.
Van Staalduine’s father, Jerry Van Staalduine, testified that missing three of the football team’s nine games could hurt his chance of getting a college scholarship.
Lawyer Barry Kaplan, who represented Van Staalduine, said the student isn’t racist, doesn’t bully students and didn’t intend to cause a problem with the hand signal.
“It didn’t cause chaos. It didn’t cause a riot,” Kaplan said.
School district lawyer Sharon Greer noted Van Staalduine had been warned previously.
“You don’t have to show it caused anything,” Greer said. “It’s the potential for a cause.”
District Court Judge Steven Oeth is expected to rule on the injunction request later this week.
Information from: Times-Republican, http://www.timesrepublican.com