Student Suspended For 'Hate Incident' After Using Standard Face Paint in Football Game

A student at a middle school in California was suspended in October for wearing face paint resembling eye black to a football game, as reported by CalCoastNews.

The principal of Muirlands Middle School, Jeff Luna, prohibited a student from participating in any sports events for the remainder of the year as a penalty for what was deemed a "hate incident," as per CalCoastNews. In response, the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE) sent a letter to the school on Thursday, calling for a reversal of both the suspension and the ban, claiming it to be a violation of the First Amendment.

“The complete lack of disruption is unsurprising, as the sight of fans in face paint is familiar to and expected by anyone who has ever attended a football game or other sporting event,” the letter from FIRE stated, noting that “There is no evidence J.A.’s face paint caused a disruption—let alone a material and substantial one—at the football game or at school afterward,” while referring to the student by his initials.

According to CalCoastNews, the father, who chose to remain anonymous, shared a photo of his son sporting face paint akin to that used by football players to reduce sun glare. The student donned this black face paint during a game between La Jolla High School and Morse High School.

The student's father recounted to CalCoastNews, “He had a fun, great night without any trouble.” Following the game, he was summoned to the principal's office where Principal Luna described the face paint as blackface, citing Morse High School's predominantly black student body, as per the father's account to CalCoastNews.

The school then suspended the student for purportedly breaching its hate incidents policy. A suspension notice given to CalCoastNews specifies the reason for discipline as the student having “painted his face black at a football game.”

Luna did not respond immediately for requests for comment from the media.

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