February 26, 2013

Conn. school, under pressure, OKs anti-gay shirt

The ACLU, which defended the student, hailed the school's decision as a victory for free speech.

The Associated Press

WOLCOTT, Conn. — Officials in a Connecticut school district have backed down in a fight over free speech rights, allowing a student to wear a T-shirt bearing an anti-gay message.

The lawyer for the school district this month wrote to the American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut, saying Wolcott High School student Seth Groody may wear the T-shirt, which bears a slash mark through a rainbow. The other side showed a male and female stick figure holding hands above the message "Excessive Speech Day," the ACLU of Connecticut said.

The ACLU said Groody wore the shirt April 20, which was designated as a day of awareness of harassment toward gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.

Groody complied with an order from a school administrator that he remove his shirt and replace it with one depicting a Wolcott High School symbol, the ACLU said.

Sandra Staub, legal director of the ACLU of Connecticut, said the district's reversal teaches students that the First Amendment "is not merely a theoretical discussion topic but a real and vital guarantee" of free speech rights.

The ACLU prepared a lawsuit to be filed in federal court demanding that the school district be stopped from enforcing its T-shirt ban and that no disciplinary measures be taken against Groody.

Without elaborating, school lawyer Christine Chinni wrote to the ACLU on Feb. 14, saying Groody may wear the T-shirt. She declined to comment beyond what she wrote in the letter.

Edward Groody, Seth's father, referred questions to the ACLU.

The ACLU disagrees "very strongly" with Seth's views on gay rights, but its opinion has no bearing on his right to express those views, Staub said.

 

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