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Local News

November 26, 2009

Students don 'Free meep' shirts in protest

DANVERS — In defiance of the ban on the word "meep," at least two Danvers High seniors wore blue "Free meep" T-shirts to school yesterday, saying they would like to sell these shirts to raise money for a scholarship or grant.

Seniors Mike Spiewak, 17, and Matt LaFleur, 18, wore their "Free meep" shirts to school yesterday despite a ban on the word that was broadcast to parents in an automated call about two weeks ago. The school's principal has said "meep" was being used to disrupt the school.

The meep ban has stirred debate nationwide, with some saying the school overreacted and violated students' free speech rights while others said it was right to crack down on such conduct.

The students spoke outside the school on Cabot Road yesterday and said they were not suspended for wearing the shirts yesterday, though some teachers asked them to cover them up. LaFleur said he has already been suspended twice for meeping, including once for creating a Facebook page asking about making shirts "to show how stupid it is we are getting banned from saying 'meep.'"

Spiewak and LaFleur said meep was not used to harass a teacher but was an inside joke and a greeting.

They picked it up from an unknown online player on the "Gears of War" Xbox game about a year and a half ago. The students said they apologized to the administration at the beginning of the school year, but the matter escalated.

Spiewak said he passed out 24 shirts to friends yesterday, some wore them, others did not. Spiewak said Principal Thomas Murray told him his actions were "inappropriate and unacceptable" and said he should have sought permission first.

Murray refused to comment at the school yesterday.

Adults Michael Brownson of Andover, an insurance agent who works with Spiewak's mother, and Jim Shaw of Salisbury were on hand outside the school to support the students.

"I thought there was an overreaction in Danvers," Brownson said. "I'm a businessman, I saw an opportunity to make things right."

He said he wants students and the administration to get together and use money raised from the sale of the T-shirts to create a scholarship "raising awareness of constitutional law and what is right."

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