Another School Free Speech Caseby 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.