The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio sent a letter to Celina High School yesterday, urging administrators to reconsider their unconstitutional decision to prohibit students from wearing shirts that express their support of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) students.

“Schools should be a place where students are free to express their beliefs,” said ACLU of Ohio Legal Director James Hardiman. “None of these young people acted inappropriately, and only wished to express their support for all members of their community. Expressing their views did not disrupt the learning environment, but now the administration’s unconstitutional overreaction has.”

“The school has silenced these students on the basis that other individuals who disagree with their message may become upset and disruptive,” added Hardiman. “This amounts to a ‘heckler’s veto’ and is not a valid justification for suppressing free speech.”

Media reports have alleged that as many as 20 students were asked by school administrators to remove their shirts. Administrators have offered various justifications for their actions, including the fact that the shirts were “political.” However, students have reported that they are routinely permitted to wear anti-abortion T-shirts to school as well as shirts that express support for, or criticism of specific political candidates.

“Allowing some students to wear shirts with political messages, while prohibiting others from doing the same thing is a clear case of unconstitutional censorship,” said Hardiman. “Regardless of the viewpoint they are expressing, students do not shed their First Amendment rights when they enter school.”

“The ACLU is actively investigating these reports,” added Hardiman, “We are also soliciting information from students and parents regarding a culture of censorship and viewpoint discrimination in Celina High School.”

One of the students posted on www.reddit.com about the experience.  According to that post, the students wore the shirts in support of marriage equality.

Please support these student’s rights to free speech by signing this petition.

 

 Story by Lauren Michelle Kinsey

Follow Lauren @OHLMK

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  • John

    A friend of mine and a school law professor had this to say about Celina: I already have copied the ACLU letter to give to my Supt Licensure classes
    tomorrow morning. Me thinks the Celina supt has not kept himself informed of
    the Ohio federal court decision 6 months ago that supported a “Jesus is Not a
    Homophobe” t-shirt. Also, in a different direction, a U.S. Circuit Court of
    Appeals ruled last year that anti-gay t-shirt worn by a Naperville, Ill. high
    school student with the words “Be Happy, Not Gay” also was free speech. The
    Celina case will be a slam dunk for the ACLU. Me also thinks that Celina’s
    legal counsel may instruct the supt to back off.

  • rhetorical

    Tinker v Des Moines is still the law of the land. The ACLU’s response is clearly framing this to the language of the very relevant Tinker case.
    http://www.oyez.org/cases/1960-1969/1968/1968_21

  • Fred

    What does signing a Chang.org petition accomplish? Nothing.

    I support gay rights through action, not a silly petition that nobody notices.

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