Friday, October 29, 2004

School Bigots

From the ACLU:

WEBB CITY, MO - The American Civil Liberties Union has come to the defense of a high school junior who was sent home twice from school for wearing t-shirts bearing gay pride messages. The principal cited concerns that other students may be offended by the shirts worn by Brad Mathewson.

"This school allows its students to freely express their views on gay and lesbian rights - but only if they’re on the anti-gay side of the issue," said Jolie Justus, a member of the legal panel for the ACLU of Kansas and Western Missouri, noting that bumperstickers in favor of Missouri’s recently-passed anti-gay marriage constitutional amendment are ubiquitous in the school’s hallways and parking lot. "This is a classic case of censorship. Brad Mathewson has the same Constitutional right to political speech and expression that the Supreme Court says all students have."

Mathewson was sent to the principal’s office by his homeroom teacher on October 20 after she spotted his t-shirt. The shirt bears the name of the Gay-Straight Alliance at his old high school in Fayetteville, Arkansas (FHS Gay-Straight Alliance), a pink triangle, and the words, "Make a Difference!" When an assistant principal saw it, he told Mathewson to go home and change shirts because someone might be offended by it. Although Mathewson pointed out the anti-gay marriage stickers seen throughout the school, his concerns were ignored. Mathewson was again disciplined when he came to school on October 27 wearing a t-shirt featuring a rainbow and the phrase, "I’m gay and I’m proud."

"Even though nobody complained about my t-shirts, my school told me I couldn’t wear them just because someone might get offended," said Mathewson, a junior at Webb City High School. "But every day I see students at my school with anti-gay stickers on their notebooks and sometimes on their shirts, and I find that offensive. I understand that they have a right to express what they think, but I have a right to do the same thing."

Mathewson and his mother met with school o fficials yesterday morning to express their concerns about the censorship. In the meeting, two assistant principals and the principal told Mathewson that they wouldn’t allow him to wear shirts bearing gay pride messages because they feared it would cause controversy.

Well, now they have their controversy. Congratulations, morons.