Thoughts, essays, and writings on Liberty. Written by the heirs of Patrick Henry.

“Governments never learn. Only people learn.”     Milton Friedman

March 22, 2007

Another School Free Speech Case

by Doug Mataconis

This time, it’s developing in Illinois:

A Neuqua Valley High senior has gone to federal court seeking the right to wear an anti-gay T-shirt to school next month on the day after a national event in support of gays is scheduled in schools.

Heidi Zamecnik, 17, is asking the court to order her school and Indian Prairie District 204 to allow her to express her anti-gay beliefs on April 19, the day after the 11th annual “Day of Silence” is scheduled to protest harassment of gays in schools.

According to the Web site www.dayofsilence.org,students and teachers across the country plan to observe the day in silence “to echo” the silence that gay students face all the time.

The lawsuit filed Wednesday on behalf of Heidi and an NVHS freshman did not state what written message they planned to wear on T-shirts.

(…)

During her first two years of high school, the Naperville resident did not outwardly object to the “Day of Silence,” in which students wear pro-gay messages on T-shirts. But in her junior year, Heidi wore a T-shirt the day after a “Day of Silence.” It read in part, “BE HAPPY, NOT GAY.”

That day, April 26, 2006, Dean of Students Bryan Wells told Heidi to remove the shirt or leave because her message offended others, according to the suit. When she refused, her mother was called.

Whether you agree with the message or not, this is clearly pure and outright supression of speech based on it’s content. At the same time that the school is permitting, if not encouraging, one form of speech, it is telling another student that she cannot voice a contrary opinion. It’s a bad idea and, more importantly, it’s unconstitutional.

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7 Comments

  1. In my opinion, she has no right to express her opinion. I am not gay and I find her ideas offensive as well, her passing this off as the Christian way is complete Bull Shit and she shouldn’t say stuff like that. As a Christian she makes us all look bad, no where does the Bible say God hates homosexuals, it is rather God is against homosexual acts. There is no protection of “hate” speech in the constitution, people interprete it in which ever way is most convenient to them. Freedom of speech was intended to allow people to speak out against injustices in government, not to inspire violence against others. This does not apply at all in this case. And either way according to the Neuqua Valley handbook, concerning appropriate school wear. Any student may be asked to change their clothing if it is deamed offensive to a teacher. And Heidi’s actions in previous years fit under gross insubordination according to the rules. As she refused to change the shirt herself and continued to wear it anyway. This is information not from the paper, but rather from an inside source. She could and should have been expelled, now she is simply taking advantage of the system to promote her own and largely her mothers agendas. People like her make me sick. Her constitutional rights were not breached, according to numerous court rulings, students effectively have no inherent rights, this is so that a school district may provide for a safe environment for the students. The day of silence promotes acceptance and peace, all she is trying to do is cause hatred. Spawned completely out of ignorance. Her situation is analogous to, if another student came to school wearing a shirt saying “Be white, not a (insert minority slur here).” Hatred is a fact of life, but with the strides towards equality is society, ignorant people undo years of progress. The administration at NVHS was right in their actions and they will win this lawsuit. If they don’t it sets a precident that will contribute to the downfall of our great nation.

    disclaimer-as an American I have the inherent right to express my opinion, unless it is has potential to cause harm to others. Therefore this should be allowed as a comment to this article, however I have my doubts whether or not it will as it probably doesn’t agree with this webpages motif.

    Comment by Joe Schmo — March 22, 2007 @ 10:27 pm
  2. Joe,

    Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

    I see nothing in there about an “offensive speech” exclusion. And, if you’d bother to do a little research you’d know that the Supreme Court ruled
    as long as 60 years ago that students do not shed their constitutional rights at the school house door.

    If the principal sees fit to allow those who advocate “day of silence day” to stage their demonstration, then any action to prohibit her from stating her opinion is clearly a violation of the First Amendment.

    And, for the record, I disagree with Heidi’s opinion, but I will defend to the death her right to express it.

    Comment by Doug Mataconis — March 22, 2007 @ 10:33 pm
  3. All this over a T-shirt that doesn’t say much at all. They cried foul when a girl stood up to their social engineering. Political correctness the new face of Authoritarianism.

    Comment by uhm — March 22, 2007 @ 10:52 pm
  4. Students will win with a court decision in favor of the school’s right to create safe and calm learning environment.

    Schools should create a safe and calm environment in which students can focus on learning and social skills to get along with many different kinds of people. No student should be allowed to promote hatred, disrepect and intolerance towards other students.

    Comment by Jeremy — March 25, 2007 @ 2:31 pm
  5. The plaintiff’s attorney is the Alliance Defense Fund. This organization provides lawyers and takes on case for right wing christian fundamentalist causes.

    Gay sex is really not the issue. Its power, as described in For the Christian Right, Gay-Hating Is Just the Start, which makes very interesting reading.

    Comment by Jeremy — March 25, 2007 @ 2:32 pm
  6. The British television documentary The Root of All Evil helps explain why some religions are so hostile. The full documentary can be viewed at the following links:

    The Root of All Evil – The God Delusion (Part 1 of 2)
    (48 minutes)

    The Root of All Evil – The Virus of Faith (Part 2 of 2)
    (43 minutes)

    Comment by Jeremy — March 25, 2007 @ 2:36 pm
  7. Joe Schmo:

    Therefore this should be allowed as a comment to this article, however I have my doubts whether or not it will as it probably doesn’t agree with this webpages motif.

    I’m amazed at the number of people who believe we will censor their comments because they don’t agree with our “motif”, “beliefs”, etc. You are just another in a long line that has claimed we would censor your comment for that reason.

    Funny thing, in all the time this blog has existed, we have never censored someone. We have come very close with one commenter, but even then only had to point out why (it was due to ad hominem attacks). Why is it that you impute your values to us?

    Comment by Adam Selene — March 25, 2007 @ 3:45 pm

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