Here’s another case of a school administrator not understanding the First Amendment. A student was reprimanded and ordered to cover up a t-shirt she wore that read “All the cool girls are lesbians.” And even the chair of the school board recognizes the problem:
A Lynn English High School student reprimanded for wearing a t-shirt which read “All the cool girls are lesbians,” set off a debate during Thursday’s School Committee meeting on the school dress code and how it is enforced.
“I believe if the student wanted to make a big fuss she could,” said Mayor and School Committee Chairman Judith Flanagan Kennedy.
Kennedy told committee members Thursday that she received a letter from a student who was asked by one of the vice principals to cover her t-shirt and never wear it again. The student, who was not named, felt she had been wronged and Kennedy agreed.
“I did some legal research on this and I believe she is right,” Kennedy said. “I don’t believe the school had the authority to ask her to cover it up.” …
In the letter, the student said she was sitting in the cafeteria at lunch when a teacher told her to show Vice Principal Joseph O’Hagan her shirt. O’Hagan, she wrote, agreed with the teacher that the shirt was inappropriate. When she asked why, the student said she was told, “Because it’s political and offensive to some people.”
“Well, frankly I’m the one who feels offended,” the girl wrote in the letter, a copy of which Kennedy provided to The Item.
She said there are a number of girls who wear shirts that read “I love boys.” She also said that she believes if a student wore a shirt that read “Straight don’t hate,” it would go unnoticed.
But English Principal Thomas Strangie said Friday that isn’t true.
“We wouldn’t allow anything of that nature,” he said.
Strangie said a student can be made to cover up a shirt that is deemed disruptive, “and that (shirt) could have been disruptive. It was nothing against her.”
Strangie is clueless. You can’t make a serious argument for why that shirt would be disruptive, and that’s the only way to make his actions constitutional under Tinker, the controlling court precedent. Eugene Volokh, one of the top first amendment experts in the country, responds:
Of course, at this point this is just an allegation by the girl; but if it’s accurate, then the school’s actions violate the First Amendment, unless there’s some showing that the T-shirt had materially disrupted class, led to fights, or posed a demonstrable risk of doing either. The mere possibility that the T-shirt might be disruptive, absent some real evidence that disruption was likely, is not sufficient to justify restricting it. Of course, I take the same view as to anti-homosexuality T-shirts.
So do I.