NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee has filed a lawsuit to protect students' right to free speech after a senior was censored for wearing a shirt to school supporting equality for lesbian and gay people.
The federal lawsuit was filed on behalf of a Richland High senior who was censored by the Giles County school system. Giles County is about 86 miles south of Nashville.
The shirt read: "Some People Are Gay, Get Over It."
"Our goal in this case is to ensure that students are not censored for expressing their support for the equal treatment and acceptance of LGBT students," Hedy Weinberg, ACLU of Tennessee director, said in an interview.
The lawsuit said the school's principal, Micah Landers, prohibited the student from wearing that shirt or any other shirt referencing lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender rights because it might provoke other students.
According to Giles County dress code policy, students cannot wear clothing or accessories that have slogans about or suggestive of "drugs, alcohol, sex, obscenities or prove to be a disturbing influence."
Following the incident, ACLU-TN sent a letter to the school system explaining that schools can only censor student speech when the speech itself — and not other people's reaction to it — is disruptive to the educational process.
"We know from a series of cases that as long as that the shirt is not obscene or doesn't constitute a threat, then the student's speech or expression cannot be censored," Weinberg said.
Landers and Superintendent Philip Wright didn't return a request for comment by the newspaper by the time of publication on Monday.