Ohio High School Selectively Bans Pro-Gay T-Shirts
A high school in Celina, Ohio, a town in the western part of the state, is making headlines this week for prohibiting about 20 students from wearing t-shirts that support gay rights, according to U.S. News & World Report.
The controversy started when two female students wore t-shirts that read "Lesbian 1" and "Lesbian 2" on Celina High School's "Twin Day." The school's administration asked the girls to remove their shirts, according to students.
About 20 students came together to support the two girls and showed up to class wearing t-shirts that read, "I support...Express yourself," with a picture of a rainbow in between the phrases.
"My sister got yelled at and screamed at [by administrators], and she was basically told she was unwanted at the school because she's gay," Jimmy Walter, a Celina sophomore and one of the girls' younger brother, told U.S. News.
The high school's superintendent, Jesse Steiner, said there is another side to the story, however. While both parties involved in the incident agree that students were asked to remove their shirts, Steiner says it was most likely because they were disruptive.
"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 handbook," Steiner told the publication. "And there's a line in our handbook about drawing undue attention to yourself."
Eric Warner, a junior, said students couldn't wear the shirts because they were considered "political" even though there is no rule that prohibit students from wearing political clothing. Warner, who did not wear the rainbow t-shirt, told U.S. News that he often sees students at Celina High wear political clothing.
"[Our high] school promotes their pro-life club called the 'Students for Life'. They have their own shirts, which have a fetus and promotes pro-life," Warner posted on Reddit about the incident. "How is this not considered political?"
Warner also said he's seen kids wear Mitt Romney shirts and others that call President Barack Obama a socialist.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio doesn't agree with Steiner's take on the incident.
"This is what's called a 'heckler's veto,'" Drew Dennis, a litigation coordinator at the Ohio ACLU, told U.S. News. "It sounds like the school is trying to silence the students who are expressing an unpopular viewpoint on the basis that there will be individuals who disagree with that message."
The students also said they didn't think their rainbow shirts were disruptive. Warner said he didn't "give a second look" to the shirts but said pro-life t-shirts that have a picture of a fetus can be seen "from a mile away."
Both sides are currently speaking with lawyers about the incident.
This isn't the only time when officials from a high school in Ohio were up in arms about pro-gay shirt. A similar incident occurred in April when Maverick Couch, a 16-year-old gay student at Waynesville High School, was told he could not wear a t-shirt that said "Jesus Is Not A Homophobe." The shirt also features an image of a rainbow-colored fish closely resembling the religious symbol used by Christians, the Associated Press reported.
After Couch sued the school,the teen was allowed to wear the shirt on April 20, the Day of Silence, an annual event to protest anti-gay bullying.
"We're glad that Maverick is able to wear his shirt on April 20," Couch's attorney, Christopher Clark, said. "However, a student's First Amendment rights are not restricted to one day of the year - we will continue to fight until Maverick is allowed to express who he is on any day he chooses."