Asst. Principal Defends Korn T-Shirt Suspension

The alt-metal band calls high-school assistant principal's comments in thepress 'patently false' and issues a cease-and-desist demand.

In response to a cease-and-desist order from the band Korn directing her to

immediately refrain from defaming the band, a Michigan school official said

her recent comments calling the band's T-shirts "obscene" had less to do

with Korn than with school dress codes.

"The issue is not Korn shirts," said Zeeland High School Assistant

Principal Gretchen Plewes, speaking by phone from her home Thursday

evening. "The issue is not Marilyn Manson shirts. The issue is keeping the

same standards of attire for everyone in our high school."

Last week Plewes suspended 18-year-old Eric VanHoven for two days, saying

the shirt he had worn -- emblazoned with the word "Korn" and nothing more --

violated a school policy against clothing that implies obscenity, violence,

drugs or sexual innuendo. "Korn is indecent, vulgar, obscene and intends

to be insulting," Plewes told the Holland Sentinel newspaper.

"[Wearing the name Korn] is no different than a person wearing a middle

finger on their shirt."

More than 400 students and parents have since signed a petition in support

of VanHoven. A student walkout protesting the suspension is scheduled for

Friday at the school, according to a statement issued by Korn.

Korn attorney David Baram rejoined Plewes' remarks with a cease-and-desist

letter faxed to the school Thursday. Calling Plewes' comments "patently

false," the missive contends that the assistant principal "maliciously and

intentionally" defamed the quartet -- fronted by singer Jonathan Davis -- with

her claims to the Sentinel.

"Our band sends out positive messages to our fans -- we stand for

something," Davis said in the statement. "After hearing about something as

ridiculous as this, we wanted to stand up for the student's rights and let

the school district know that we're pissed off at their treatment of the

student and their attempt to discredit Korn as artists and human beings."

However, in her argument, Plewes -- who said she has not seen the letter

from Korn's attorney -- contended that VanHoven's shirt constituted a

"walking advertisement for lyrics and lifestyles." In past years, the

school has also fought to prevent students from wearing shirts with phrases

such as "Party Naked."

Asked if the school would similarly suspend students for wearing the shirts

of country artists such as Garth Brooks or of Christian pop singer Amy Grant,

Plewes said, "Some people think we should ban all T-shirts. Some people have brought up the subject of religious T-shirts. Some are wondering if our

school will end up with students wearing uniforms. Right now, we are

looking at the issue."

For his part, Korn manager Jeff Kwatinetz said he thinks that Plewes' opinions on Korn's shirts are based on shaky foundations. "There are no official lyrics to Korn's songs," Kwatinetz said during a phone interview Friday in response to Plewes' comments. "They're not printed on any of our albums and they're not posted on our official website."

Meanwhile, Korn members are weighing their legal options. According to the letter from Baram, Plewes' comments constitute trade defamation against Korn, and thus the band is entitled to "significant compensatory and punitive damages" from Plewes and the Zeeland Public Schools Board of Education.

"We are anxious to hear your excuse for such comments," the letter reads,

"as I am sure your lawyers will inform you the term 'Korn' does not and

cannot constitute obscenity under any recognized legal definition."

The statement issued by the band said that if bandmembers sued and damages were awarded, the money would be donated to the American Civil Liberties Union and child-abuse prevention charities. "We're taking this very seriously," Kwatinetz said. "This is a violation of civil liberties."