We love it when young people stand up for their rights and the rights of others.
That's just what Flathead High School students in Kalispell did today in response to their school administrators' decision Friday to force a student to change her shirt saying, "Legalize Gay," or to go home.
They organized a protest called "T-shirts for Tinker," and called upon their fellow students to wear T-shirts to school today with the same "Legalize Gay" message or another message promoting free speech.
Teachers at the school did a great job of educating their students about the U.S. Constitution. It appears those students understand it better than the administrators.
In a Facebook posting about the situation and protest, student Barrie Sue Sugarman wrote, "I have heard they said it was the equivalent of advertising pornography, and because it was such a controversial issue they had the right to ask her to take it off... This is a clear violation of the First Amendment, which gives US citizens, INCLUDING STUDENTS, freedom of speech. The Tinker v. Des Moines Supreme Court case from 1969 specifically outlines this freedom of speech for students."
Sugarman is right. In Tinker v. Des Moines, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that students could wear black armbands to school in protest of the Vietnam War. "Schools," wrote Justice Abe Fortas, "may not be enclaves of totalitarianism. Students and teachers do not shed their constitutional rights to freedom of expression at the schoolhouse gates."
More recently, a federal judge in Florida ruled in favor of students in a case very similar to the situation in Kalispell. In that case, the principal of Ponce de Leon High School testified that he believed clothing or stickers featuring rainbows would make students automatically picture gay people having sex, and banned the wearing of any clothing with rainbows on it or any other show of support for gay people.
The ACLU is committed to standing up for free speech and also for the rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people through its Fair is Fair campaign.
Bravo Flathead High School students!