When students at St. Charles North High School in Illinois decided to take part in Ally Week, dedicated to fighting anti-gay bullying, three students thought it’d be a perfect opportunity to show up at school wearing “Straight Pride” tees with Biblical verses calling for gays to be “put to death” printed on them. Thank goodness cooler heads prevailed and the kids won’t face any punishment!
The three male teens who showed up to school Monday in an anti-Ally Week affront grabbed quotes from Leviticus 20:13 reading, “If a man lay with a male as those who lay with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination and shall surely be put to death.” That was on the back. On the front: “Straight Pride.” Administrators, initially unaware of the verses on the back, ended up asking the students to cross out the scripture with markers because, hey, death threats aren’t cool.
On Tuesday, while others were wearing purple to highlight anti-gay bullying, seniors Steven Boi and Jake Pezzuto showed up also wearing “Straight Pride” tees, sans Biblical quotes. They were asked to cover their shirts with sweatshirts. Both groups of teens complied.
“The reason why we wore the shirts was just to express our views,” says Boi. “People have said Ally Week is for everyone, but after Monday it was clear that it was more designed for homosexual students. We wore our shirts on Tuesday to express our views that we’re straight, and we have the right to express that. But my dean told me on Tuesday, because of the people who wore the other shirts on Monday, our shirts were considered disruptive to the learning environment. To me, Ally Week itself has been disruptive. Instead of learning in class, we have to sit there and talk about all this other stuff that’s happening because of Ally Week.”
As for Pezzuto: “I was shocked. There is clearly a double standard here, and we’re really upset about this. They said the reason we can’t wear ‘Straight Pride’ shirts is because they are disruptive. And I can understand how maybe some people were intimidated by the shirts with the Bible verse. But I don’t understand how some students are able to wear ‘Gay Pride’ shirts while we can’t wear shirts that just say ‘Straight Pride.’ We wanted to wear them because we wanted to raise the fact that we were getting ripped on for supporting our straight sexuality, and also as a way to prove that our school has double standards.”
School district spokesman Jim Blaney knows they’re facing a major gray area between ensuring school order and letting teens exercise their First Amendment rights: “This is the trick in an issue like this. You have to balance one person’s right to free speech to another person’s right to not be offended.” But there could also be a net positive: “While it may have been a little bit controversial at times, the kids at North are talking about this. They are learning about people who might have a different opinion than theirs.”
Meanwhile, with Ally Week continuing through tomorrow, even more students are expected to be showing up in “Straight Pride” shirts (or, Plan B, wear solid black tees) to protest the school’s decision to ban any shirt with those words on them. Match that against a Facebook group — SCN Students Against Bullying at CUSD303 School Board Meeting — encouraging students to attend School District 303’s board meeting next month to voice concerns about the school letting students wear the “Straight Pride” tees at all.
And therein lies the age old dilemma: How to celebrate the culture (and safety) of a minority while trying to also educate the majority that every day is a celebration of their normalization. That’s why “White Pride” shirts are not appropriate attire. And neither are any that calls for the death of an entire group of people. [Daily Herald, Chicago Tribune]