A California school district told students Tuesday it cannot wear anti-gay symbols while on campus “for now,” reversing a decision previously allowing students to place stickers on their identification cards disapproving of gay rights.
Administrators had previously said that asking students to remove the anti-gay symbols was a violation of their free speech, the Los Angeles Times reported. They said students have the same right to wear anti-gay stickers as those who support gay rights.
However, the Desert Sands Unified School District said in a statement it will ask students to stop wearing a rainbow pattern sticker with a line through it, until “a proper course of action” can be decided.
Last month, many students and teachers complained the stickers made gay and lesbian students feel unwelcomed at the school. Amy Oberman, a History teacher at Shadow Hills High School in Indio, told the Orange County Register the gay and lesbian community was targeted.
“Yes, there is freedom of speech established by Tinker,” Oberman said referring to the 1969 Supreme Court case, Tinker vs. Des Moines that said students don’t “shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate. “But at least in my view, it’s a hate crime because a group was targeted.”
The district didn’t say why it changed its stance and officials didn’t specify what the punishment would be for those who didn’t remove the stickers. However, nearly a dozen students complied with the rules as of Tuesday, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Superintendent Gary Rutherford told the Times the district doesn’t tolerate any kind of bullying and that schools educate diverse communities with many points of view.
“The free expression of these views is protected, within certain limits,” he added.