“Proud to be a lesbian.” “Support homosexual love.” “100% gay pride.” We already know wearing to school a t-shirt that says “I will get you into trouble. But now a homemade tee with those three phrases can be added to the list, as 15-year-old Ramsey Junior High School ninth grader Sommer Collins learned when she was suspended from her Texas school. Except let’s not bury the lede: Sommer was also attacked at school by a classmate.
Officially, Sommer was suspended for three days for “insubordination” after refusing to change her shirt, but her father David King says the shirt is “not profane. It’s not vulgar and if it offends somebody they need to get over it. … It seems insane [to suspend her]. I mean, it’s ridiculous, insane, it’s stupid. … I’m not a homosexual rights activist. I don’t agree with it, but just because I don’t agree with something doesn’t make it wrong.”
Must we once more go over the First Amendment rights of students in public schools? They may exercise their free speech rights so long as they don’t disrupt the regular activities of a school. Fort Smith Public Schools Deputy Superintendent Dr. Gordon Floyd says that’s exactly what Sommer — or, because of privacy laws, an unnamed student — did: “If [students] refuse to change their clothes the issue then becomes not what they’re wearing, but their response to the direction from the school administrator.”
At the end of the above KFSM news report, the anchor notes Sommer was also attacked two weeks ago at school in the bathroom. And, uh, ISN’T THAT THE REAL STORY HERE? That we have an incident — and it’s likely not a singular one — of violent bullying against a gay student? Is that itsy bitsy part of this story going to be addressed by administrators?
The reason it’s important to let young people express themselves through fashion, and make bold statements like the one Sommer did with her shirt, is to create a atmosphere of safety and acceptance — something Sommer clearly doesn’t enjoy at her own school. She was bullied by a classmate. Now she’s being bullied by her administrators.