Ohio High-School Students Reprimanded For Wearing Pro-Gay T-Shirts

A group of high-school students in Ohio were threatened with suspension after they refused to take off t-shirts that showed solidarity with the LGBT community.

On Tuesday, some 20 students at Celina High School in Celina, Ohio donned homemade t-shirts with the phrase “I support…” over a drawing of a rainbow. The group action was in response to a previous incident, where two girls made to remove shirts that said “Lesbian 1” and “Lesbian 2.”

Celina High sophomore Jimmy Walter organized the campaign—his sister was one of the students reprimanded in the original incident.

But school officials demanded the students remove—and presumably replace—the shirts because they were causing “a disruption.”

“The only reason they would be told that they couldn’t wear something is if it is a disruption of the educational process, or if it’s not allowed in the [student] handbook,” Celina High School Superintendent Jesse Steiner told U.S. News. “There’s a line in our handbook about drawing undue attention to yourself.” (According to Wikipedia, the 1,100-student academy is the city’s only high school.)

Junior Erick Warner says he sees classmates wearing shirts that are far more overtly partisan all the time, including ones endorsing Mitt Romney for president, ones that call President Obama a socialist, and a particularly creepy anti-choice tee: “[The] school promotes their pro-life club, called the ‘Students for Life,” Warner explained on Reddit. “They have their own shirts, which have a fetus [on them]. How is that not considered ‘political’?

Oh Erick, one day you’ll realize adults have one set of rules for themselves and another for everyone else.

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  • 2eo

    You are allowed freedom of expression as long as you don’t believe in freedom for gay people and women and follow republican lines.

    As long as you meet these it is fine.

  • David Gervais

    Someone please put there students in touch with the ACLU.

  • David Gervais

    Ooops… these students

  • jwrappaport

    Saw this on Volokh Conspiracy – I smell the sweet scent of a lawsuit.

  • Shannon1981

    ACLU. NOW. Get on this!

  • DarkZephyr

    I wish Queerty would quit assuming all gay people and all of their readers believe in abortion. I am tired of reading “anti choice” in every article as if speaking for the unborn is a worse crime than homophobia.

  • Marjorie 0120

    There is no law suit here. Most schools have rules concerning dress code, tee shirts in particular. Gang members cannot wear tee shirts that promote their gangs, in my nephews school you cannot wear a tee shirt that promotes any product or makes a political statement. Students a year or so ago were sent home because they wore tee shirts with an American flag on it on Cinco de Mayo, they agravated the Mexican students.

    When you have a thousand or more students packed into a small area like a school, you can’t wear tee shirts that may cause a problem. This does not mean the school is anti-gay, it just means they don’t want something bad to happen to this young man on school property, that’s all.

  • 2eo

    @DarkZephyr: It has never being about the “unborn” and it has always being about misogynism and control of people that are considered subnormal, in this case women.

    There is no other moral or intellectual reason. It’s quite a literal black and white issue.

  • jwrappaport

    @Marjorie 0120: Firstly, where there are lawyers, there are always lawsuits. Secondly, I think your argument is too simplistic. The First Amendment does not stop at the school gates. (Wiki Tinker v. Des Moines – it’s a great case.) There are plenty of qualifications to that – namely that schools have plenty of discretion to censor gang symbols and other clothing that would reasonably be expected to provoke responses that would be disruptive to the school’s mission of education. That is not carte blanche for censorship, however, and I don’t think the facts here fit that exception.

    We don’t have all the facts, admittedly, but on the face of this story, there appears to be no colorable argument that the shirts above would provoke violence. The shirt is a political statement, the very speech the First Amendment was designed to protect. I think it’s naive to assume that the school is acting benignly and in completely good faith – you should always be suspicious of censorship, no matter how well intentioned: it is presumptively illegitimate in and anathema to any free society. I want to hear the school’s response as to why it was justified here.

  • Marjorie 0120

    It would be interesting to hear if the school had witnessed any confrontations between the students or had any complaints about the tee shirts. That kind of information could change our initial opinions.

    I am acutely aware of free speech, censorship, but I also understand that if one of these students was unduly harassed or hurt in a physical fight their parents would be looking at suing the school for that too.

    Very sticky problem at best. Perhaps there will be a follow-up article providing more info on what the emotional climate was that day.

    Take care,

  • Bellerophon69

    “Oh Erick, one day you’ll realize adults have one set of rules for themselves and another for everyone else.” Adults and Republicans.

  • shellbabes

    I am offended by Malcolm X shirts, seeing as he was NOT a peaceful person but encouraged things by “any means necessary”.

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