Administrators Had Refused to Ban Anti-Gay Symbols Fearing First Amendment Lawsuit
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Some students in an Indio, California high school have placed an anti-gay symbol on their ID badges they wear around their necks. The image consists of the round red "no" sign over rainbow stripes, signifying "no gays" (image above). When members of the school's Gay-Straight Alliance complained to administrators at Shadow Hills High School they were told the students had the right to wear the symbols as long as they didn't use them in a harassing manner.
It's hard to imagine an LGBTQ teenager who sees the anti-gay symbol not feeling harassed. What, as one teacher asked, if it were a swastika? Or a symbol that telegraphed, "no Black people," "no Asian people," or "no women"?
"After consulting with district level personnel and our legal counsel, it was determined that these students do have the protected right to freedom of speech, just as students portraying rainbows in support of the LGBT would," a statement sent to staff last week via email read, according to Kristen Hwang at The Desert Sun.
"If at any point students are interrupting class time to express their beliefs, they are to be sent to the discipline office with a referral for disruption," the email added. "We all have a right to freedom of speech, but students also have a right to be educated without fear. This has always been our policy, and we will continue to enforce it."
Hwang reports that the "LGBTQ community on campus feels targeted. The same students who were distributing the anti-gay symbol on campus also placed one on the window of the Gay Straight Alliance coordinator's classroom, said Amy Oberman, an AP U.S. History teacher at Shadow Hills."
But today Hwang reports that the superintendent has asked the anti-gay students to remove the anti-gay badges "for now."
District Superintendent Gary Rutherford told The Desert Sun, "recently some information has been brought forward that requires additional investigation and follow-up to determine a proper course of action. Pending further investigation, we are going to ask students who are displaying the symbol showing a rainbow pattern with a circle and a line, at least for now, to remove symbols while at school."
Shadow Hills High School senior Michelle Bachman last week told The Desert Sun, "This group of students was publicly displaying an intolerance and hate for the LGBT community when a large portion of our students at SHHS are part of the community or close to people a part of it as well."
"This is definitely hate speech, but legally, we can't do anything until these students start to physically harass us, which I believe is an injustice."
Image via Twitter