Richland High School student, Rebecca Young, wore a pro-gay shirt on the first day of school, and in response she was publically reprimanded and prohibited from wearing the shirt in the future.
The principal, Micah Landers, claims that the t-shirt, with the words “Some People Are Gay, Get Over It,” violated the dress code. The dress code, however, only forbids clothes that have slogans suggestive of “drugs, alcohol, sex, obscenities or prove to be a disturbing influence.” The fact that the principal and school district believe that this shirt’s slogan is considered a dress code violation is surprising, but Landers defends his decisions claiming that the t-shirt could encourage bullying and make Young a target.
As a result of the principal’s actions, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Tennessee chapter is now suing the school on behalf of the student, claiming the student’s free speech rights are violated.
Hedy Weinberg, the Tennessee ACLU director, says: “We know from a series of cases that as long as that the shirt is not obscene or doesn’t constitute a threat, then the student’s speech or expression cannot be censored…. Our goal in this case is to ensure that students are not censored for expressing their support for the equal treatment and acceptance of LGBT students.”
The high school student elaborated: “Wearing the shirt was a way to express my support for gay people and for treating them with respect… The censorship I experienced clearly shows why I felt the need to use my voice this way in the first place.”
The ACLU’s lawsuit asks the court to require the school district to alter its discriminatory policy that bans such innocent clothing. We hope the court agrees and we congratulate the student for her courage.