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Nov 06 2012

Another School Ignores the First Amendment

The administrators of a high school in Celina, Ohio clearly need to retake American history and civics (if the school offers such a class) after censoring pro-equality t-shirts worn by a group of students in support of two other students they had already censored.

The debate at Celina High School started after two female high school students celebrated the high school’s “Twin Day” last week by wearing shirts to school that read “Lesbian 1″ and “Lesbian 2″ on the back. They were promptly asked to remove the T-shirts, according to students there.

On Tuesday, some 20 students decided to show their support of the girls by wearing their own T-shirts to school. The shirts read: “I support…” with a photo of a rainbow. “Express yourself.” …

Celina High School Superintendent Jesse Steiner says there are “definitely two stories” to the incident.

But both sides agree the students who wore the rainbow T-shirts were asked to remove them.

Students were told the T-shirts were prohibited because they were “political,” according to Warner, despite no such rule in the school dress code. Steiner was not able to confirm if this rule was or wasn’t part of the code…

Superintendent Steiner says it’s more likely students were asked to remove the T-shirts because they were disruptive, not because they were political.

“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 says. “And there’s a line in our handbook about drawing undue attention to yourself.”

Okay Mr. Steiner, now go ask your lawyer whether such a vague rule would be considered overly broad by any federal court. And then you’d better rescind the policy and stop violating the constitution.

20 comments

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  1. 1
    xmnr

    Although I doubt it’s taught in any civics class, the school district may also wish to research the Streisand Effect.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Streisand_effect

  2. 2
    Doug Little

    “And there’s a line in our handbook about drawing undue attention to yourself.”

    Unless each student is wearing a uniform aren’t you drawing undue attention to yourself with what ever you wear?

  3. 3
    ashleybell

    You know what would be awesome but would take some serious guts to do… Be sure when wearing the shirts to school to NOT wear anything under them (except bras for women… If they want, and NOT if they don’t). You see where I’m going here. The school has an option. They let the students keep the shirts on or there a a lot of topless students walking around that day. Hey, here’s one. How about PANTS with slogans and messages on them…

  4. 4
    Gretchen

    The school has an option. They let the students keep the shirts on or there a a lot of topless students walking around that day.

    Actually they just send them home to change. This happens all the time.

  5. 5
    Doug Little

    Actually they just send them home to change. This happens all the time.

    Or get them to wear them inside out.

  6. 6
    Abby Normal

    Looks to me like the attention the students’ shirts drew was precisely the amount due.

  7. 7
    hoku

    I think the school might actually be OK under Tinker and Bong Hits 4 Jesus.

  8. 8
    dingojack

    Hoku – under Tinker? How so, exactly*?
    Dingo
    —–
    * I’d say the very opposite, actually

  9. 9
    hoku

    Becuase the students wearing shirts protesting the administration could easily be disruptive and not just an uncomfortable viewpoint. The first two students probably did have their rights violated, unless the school argues the shirts we simply sexual innuendo (and that would probably fail).

  10. 10
    Gretchen

    Yeah, Tinker and Bong Hits 4 Jesus reached opposite conclusions. In fact, in the Bong Hits 4 Jesus case (Morse v. Frederick) Scalia (in the majority) actually said that Tinker was wrongly decided and that students have no First Amendment rights while at school.

  11. 11
    hoku

    Bong Hits did not have and opposite conclusion, it simply provided an exception (illegal drugs) and gave us a look at how the court might rule on other cases. I doubt the court would rule that students have no rights. But it does lean towards the school being ok in this case.

  12. 12
    dingojack

    Yes, but as I understand it, Tinker ruled that students have a right to speak (even symbolically) if it i not disruptive. These T-shirts would fall under this ruling (IANAL).
    Dingo

  13. 13
    SnowyBiscuit

    I think — and I’m at work now, so I can’t look it up as this is the end of my lunch half-hour — that under the Hazelwood ruling, high school admins can censore any-damn-thing they want.

    But I was in college when Hazelwood was decided so that might be a bit off. Will have to check later.

    I admit that it’s damned stupid what high school admins get their tighty-whities in a twist over and what they ignore.

  14. 14
    magistramarla

    I was the GSA mentor teacher in a large Texas high school.
    My GSA kids were constantly scrutinized by the administration, and they were often forced to change their clothing. It could be as small as wearing a shirt with a rainbow on it on “the Day of Silence”. Many of my kids tried to observe that, and they were harassed by many of the teachers in the school.
    On the other hand, the xtian groups in the school wore clothing blasting their beliefs to the world and posters and banners were often all over the school.
    The separation of church and state and the first amendment have both been eroded in many schools, but especially in those in the red states.

  15. 15
    jnorris

    Let the students start a Meteorology Club and wear official Meteorology Club rainbow t-shirts.

    Steiner says. “And there’s a line in our handbook about drawing undue attention to yourself.”

    When I was in high school the JROTC wore their uniforms, the cheerleaders their skimpy skirts and tight sweaters with pompoms on game day, the Boy Scouts on whatever day they celebrated, all of which was purposely designed to call attention to the person and what they represented.

    The students’ parents should visit the school and photograph such blatant official Call-Attention-To-Me occurrences and present them to the school board.

  16. 16
    =8)-DX

    that read “Lesbian 1″ and “Lesbian 2″ on the back. They were promptly asked to remove the T-shirts, according to students there.

    Curse you, my evil brain! Curse you perverted imagination!

  17. 17
    caseloweraz

    “The debate at Celina High School started after two female high school students celebrated the high school’s “Twin Day” last week by wearing shirts to school that read “Lesbian 1″ and “Lesbian 2″ on the back. They were promptly asked to remove the T-shirts, according to students there.”

    I sure don’t see what’s wrong with announcing you hail from the Greek islands…

  18. 18
    zmidponk

    “And there’s a line in our handbook about drawing undue attention to yourself.”

    Hmm. Well, frankly, it could be argued that, first of all, they weren’t drawing attention to themselves, they were drawing attention to the issue of gay rights, and, secondly, the attention they were drawing is not undue.

  19. 19
    Ichthyic

    “And there’s a line in our handbook about drawing undue attention to yourself.”

    …thus spake the authoritarians.

  20. 20
    Ichthyic

    Curse you, my evil brain! Curse you perverted imagination!

    lol, yeah first reading suggested to me:

    They were promptly asked to remove the T-shirts, according to by the students there.

    and me wondering if it was a bit early for spring break.

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