Ongoing History of New Music

Ongoing History Daily: A big band goes to war for a high school student

One day in 1998, Eric VanHoven went to school as usual in Zeeland, Michigan. That day, he decided he’d wear his Korn t-shirt. It wasn’t anything fancy; just a back shirt with the band’s logo. That’s it.

But then he was spotted by the assistant principal. She said “Korn is indecent, vulgar, obscene and intends to be insulting. [Wearing the name Korn] is no different than a person wearing a middle finger on their shirt.” Eric was suspended.

This created a big stir with the rest of the students—and news reached the band. They got their lawyer on the case, going after the assistant principal for “maliciously and intentionally” defaming the band and demanded “significant compensatory and punitive damages.”

The school fought back, saying that this was essentially a dress code situation. But then the ACLU got involved, pointing out that kids had worn Rolling Stones shirts to school with no problem.

Eric was suspended eight times for his shirts. In the end, though, no legal action was taken.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

Alan Cross has 38296 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

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