WOLCOTT, Conn. (AP) -- 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.