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Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Pro-Gay T-Shirts

Maybe it's just me, but I read this article and had to stop what I was doing (other than reading the article) just so I could pause and reflect and shout (in my head), "Am I the only one who can see what's going on?!?"

In Holmes County, Florida, a high school student is suing the School Board for suppressing her right to express in-school support for gays. U.S. District Judge Richard Smoak may return soon with a decision as to whether she has that right or not.

Heather Gillman, a 17-year-old junior at Ponce DeLeon High School, wants the right to wear T-shirts to school that have gay pride symbols and/or slogans supporting gay rights. She claims that last year, she wore a T-shirt to school with a pro-gay message and no administrators asked her to remove the shirt, nor did she get into any trouble. This year, between September 21 and 24, several students were suspended for wearing similar T-shirts. Gillman claims that her wearing of the T-shirts was not just about the message, but that she specifically did it to oppose the principal's suspension of the 10 students.

Gillmann was instructed through a School Board letter that shirts with messages on them are not acceptable. Now she fears that she will be suspended too if she continues to wear them, claiming that it is a suppression of her right to free speech.

The School Board contends that it does have the right to suppress free speech if it could lead to disruptions in learning.

Judge Smoak decided that this needed to be settled in a trial - including whether or not the messages Gillman wants to convey are appropriate for the age of the students that would be exposed to them, as well as whether of not they would be deemed "vulgar". Also, Smoak wants to see if there is a clear connection between the slogans and disruptions in school activities. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that free speech in schools cannot be suppressed unless it causes disruptions in the learning process.

Am I the only one who notices the disruption?

The student is in court, rather than in school! The principal is in court, rather than at the school! Members of the School Board are probably in the courtroom, rather than presiding over School Board issues!

Clearly this is a disruption! The argument can be made that this disruption wouldn't have occurred if there hadn't been an argument over whether or not the T-shirt slogans caused disruptions in the first place - but one can just as easily make the argument that the T-shirt slogans caused disruptions in the first place because the student did follow the School Board's advice in the first place and stop wearing them.

Frankly, I'm still a little perturbed that students can even wear T-shirts at school - but that's a result of attending a private high school with dress codes including rules that all shirts must have collars and must be solid color and cannot contain writing/logos larger than a standard business card and must also be tucked in at all times. That's right - we could get suspended just for having untucked shirts too many times - and she's fighting to wear pro-gay slogan T-shirts?

I side with the school, and encourage them to set up stricter and more-regulated dress codes. The blurrier and less clear the lines are drawn, the more problems like these are going to arise. I still like the notion of uniforms for all schools - students should be worrying less about what they are going to wear and more about LEARNING. Maybe if we had fewer students trying to challenge "the man" with lawsuits and freedom of speech, our test scores wouldn't be in the toilet and we'd have high school seniors who could actually READ and DO MATH.

Seriously, open up a newspaper any day of the week and you're likely to find at least one news article about our failing education system and graduating students who can't even read well enough to get by or do the simple math that would allow them to be a functional cashier at a fast-food restaurant.

I'm not anti-gay. I'm not anti-freedoms. I just think that there's a time and place for it all, and a high school classroom is not the place for it. I would have the same opinion if the slogans were on either side of the gay rights agenda, political candidates, or even illegal immigration. If this were about a student arguing the right to wear a T-shirt saying "ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION IS ILLEGAL", I'd still favor the School Board telling that student to take the shirt off, sit their ass down in the classroom and fucking LEARN things.

Do you agree? Or are you going to call me an anti-gay hatemonger for trying to argue that school is for learning and arguments over what is distracting are just as distracting as the items that are being argued about?

(The actual article, if I didn't paraphrase it well enough here)

1 comment:

Shaun H. said...

i just have to say, i have always gone to private school myself, and i have always worn some sort of dress code or uniform. however, the difference between us private school students and them public school students is that we pay horrendous amounts of money in order to go to that school. public school on the other hand is a state institute and is therefore constrained by the Constitution.
but this issue here is not just about the uniform and code of dress. it goes much deeper than that. at these public schools, kids can where practically anything they want. and suddenly the school is going out of their way to suspend only the pro-gay shirts. i can only see justification for this if the school only allows students to wear neutral clothing. this is a sensitive topic because kids these days are getting the wrong image about gay people. a lot of kids think being gay is a bad thing. and having your opinion is one thing, but it's a different thing when they act on it. take matthew sheperd, for instance, and lawrence king. lawrence king was fifteen, and his murderer (actually his classmate) thought it was perfectly acceptable to kill gays. by preventing any pro-gay tshirts at the school, the principal is implying the message that it's not okay to be gay, that being gay is wrong.
and kids are very impressionable.

sorry about the long comment.