Welcome to the age of the Internet, Celina High School administrators. I don’t think you’re going to like this.
In the Republican county of Mercer, Ohio, wearing a T-shirt supporting gay rights in your public high school can get you detention. But pro-life T-shirts sporting a fetus are okay.
Confused? So was KyraGrace (Reddit handle), a student at Celina High School, which, by the way, hosted vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan last week.
KyraGrace thought the public school was being hypocritical. He sees students wearing pro-life tees, Romney supporting tees (he emailed a picture of a student wearing a Romney/Ryan T-shirt to a reporter as proof), and Obama is a “socialist” tees, yet he claims the school originally said the rainbow tees had to go because they were political.
The detention worthy rainbow tees were even clever about the cause they supported (see image above), “I support —. Express yourself.” KyraGrace took to Reddit yesterday to voice his discontent, landing the school in the center of a Constitutional firestorm of their own making.
KyraGrace wrote: “Today, twenty students at our local high school got in trouble for wearing shirts promoting gay rights because of the political issue. Yet, they host a pro-life club and allow them to wear shirts. What backwards things have your schools done that made about zero sense?”
He then detailed the history, :Back story: Some of the high school students wanted to promote the “Gay Marriage Rights” program. They made shirts to wear to school. They werent offensive in any context. It was only a rainbow that said “I have the rights to express my love.” The vice principal punished these students and forced them to change because they are advertising “political” messages.
Yet, this school promotes their pro-life club called the “Students for Life”. They have their own shirts, which have a fetus and promotes pro-life. Not to mention the signs the put up around our town. They refuse to debate with pro-choicers as well. How is that not considered “political”?
This school is a public school too..
EDIT 1: Just got home. I will read through these and try to comment to most of you.
EDIT 2: The students were punished quite swiftly. Some were simply told to change, others got detention. They fought back and told them that they have the rights to wear it.
EDIT 3: It’s a public school. Not a very large school district either.
EDIT 4: Interview with local paper. Be back later.
EDIT 5: Back. usnews.com will have the article on their website at noon tomorrow, my friend said. Also, interviewed for a local newspaper.
EDIT 6: The shirt looked like this: http://imgur.com/Swc6b,Co2N3
EDIT 7: http://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2012/10/31/ohio-high-school-students-told-to-remove-rainbow-t-shirts-supporting-gay-rights
There you go.”
KyraGrace was right to find the school’s stance hypocritical. The school is infringing on the Constitutional rights of the students’ freedom of speech/expression (an argument already won over rainbow t-shirts in public schools, by the way).
It turns out that students don’t surrender their rights when they enter onto the property of a public school. Go figure, since the school is the property of our government and we are granted freedom of speech with protection from governmental attempts to silence it. The ACLU points out, “The Bill of Rights guarantees that the government can never deprive people in the U.S. of certain fundamental rights including the right to freedom of religion and to free speech and the due process of law. Many federal and state laws give us additional rights, too.”
Redditors voted KyraGrace’s post up to over 1400 points, causing the Internet site HyperVocal to notice. They got in touch with KyraGrace and did a story on the school’s policy today. HyperVocal pointed out that indeed the bylaws and policies of the school do not prohibit political clothing:
The Celina City District bylaws and policies page warns that no clothing should “materially interfere with school work, create disorder, or disrupt the educational program” (emphasis ours), and that “the Board will not interfere with the right of students and their parents to make decisions regarding their appearance, except when their choices interfere with the educational program of the schools.”
Is a rainbow disruptive? Only if you find free speech disruptive, which Celina High School Superintendent Jesse Steiner apparently does. Speaking to US News, Steiner said, “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. And there’s a line in our handbook about drawing undue attention to yourself.”
Fetus tees are not disruptive, but rainbows are? Fetus tees don’t draw attention to you, but rainbows do? Rainbows BAD; medical event taking place in a woman’s private areas GOOD.
Both sides are reportedly talking to lawyers, but only one side has the odds in their favor to prevail. Public high school administrators don’t have the power or authority to pick and choose what free speech they will allow. They do not get to allow the speech they agree with and not allow the speech they find offensive. They should know this, working at a public institution in which they allegedly educate our nation’s youth about such matters.
Freedom of speech/expression is one of our most cherished rights. Even in conservative counties. Even in high school. Yes, administrators can make certain rules but they may not arbitrarily apply them only to speech they find offensive or threatening like, say, a dictator would. They will be hard pressed to explain why a rainbow is “disruptive” but a fetus is not.
If the administrators refuse to abide by the Constitution, they probably shouldn’t be employed by the government and paid by taxpayer money.
Note: It is PoliticusUSA’s policy to use the handle/username of individuals whose social media posts are published unless granted written permission by the individual to use their “real name” if it differs from their user name. The Redditor in question was interviewed by other outlets and is indeed a student at Celina.
Ms. Jones is the editor-in-chief of PoliticusUSA.
Sarah hosts Politicus News and co-hosts Politicus Radio. Her analysis has been featured on several national radio, television news programs and talk shows, and print outlets including Stateside with David Shuster, as well as The Washington Post, The Atlantic Wire, CNN, MSNBC, The Week, The Hollywood Reporter, and more.
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