Patch's Poll: Should Schools Police Kids' T-Shirt Slogans?

The ACLU recently informed a Connecticut school that a student was within his rights to wear an anti-gay T-shirt during a day raising awareness of gay and lesbian bullying and harassment.


A school in Wolcott violated a student’s right to free expression when school officials asked him to remove a shirt that contained an anti-gay message, according to a statement released by the American Civil Liberties Union this week.

Seth Groody, a Wolcott High School junior, wore a T-shirt on April 20 that depicted a rainbow on the front — a well-known symbol of gay rights — with a slash over it. On the back of the shirt was a pair of male and female stick figures seen holding hands, as well as the phrase  “Excessive Speech Day," the ACLU said.

The ACLU said Groody wore the shirt on a designated Day of Silence, which is part of a national movement to raise awareness of bullying and harassment of gays and lesbians. The school’s decision to order Groody remove the shirt — which he did under protest — was a violation of his First Amendment rights, citing a recent similar case, the ACLU said.

The organization, which notified the school district via a letter, said the shirt was intended to express his dislike for gay marriage and his opposition to the designated Day of Silence. According to the Hartford Courant, the ACLU said it doesn't agree with Groody's message but said the student had a right to wear that shirt.

“It was a statement of opinion that school officials and other students might disagree with but that would not substantially interfere with the operation of the school or invade anyone's rights,” the ACLU said.

With so many issues coming up on a yearly basis about school apparel, we ask, should schools police the slogans on T-shirts that kids wear? Take our poll and add your thoughts in our comment section.

Schmish June 19, 2012 at 12:42 AM
Although I see the message in having "free speech", I also see the value in censoring it. Imagine if a student wore a shirt that said "Hispanic" with a slash through it. I would call that harassment to a particular group, and I bet people would come out of the woodwork saying it was offensive. This is no different......he was essentially saying that a particular group be eliminated or at least discriminated against. As a teacher, I struggle to get students at the point where they respect everyone's differences. I'm not making a statement for or against homosexuality.....I'm making a statement against prejudice. Furthermore, schools have dress codes. In our school, girls wearing mini skirts or tube tops are asked to change. Does that mean we're taking away their rights? I definitely feel he should have been made to change, and I also think the shirt worn on that particular day was meant to make a very cruel statement.....it was not worn innocently.
joe_m June 19, 2012 at 01:24 AM
That's why free speech is protected because someone will always be offended. We need to respect our freedoms or we will loose them. Correction, we are loosing them. Political correctness run amok.
Schmish June 19, 2012 at 01:56 AM
I definitely agree with you on this, Joe_m - someone will always be offended by something. I think censorship is tricky....although I'm for it, I realize it's difficult to have a balance of "free" and "appropriate". I guess I would suggest that schools have a policy prohibiting any product that showcases 1. discrimination of a sub group and 2. illegal substances. Even as an adult there are certain things we can't say or do.....why should we not prepare our youth for the world outside of the classroom? I think we can all agree we'd be bothered if our child attended a school where students wore t shirts with pornographic images or advertising drug paraphernalia. Similarly, I wouldn't want my child going to a school where they'll see such discrimination allowed. And just to provide context here - I come from a very conservative household where I was taught being gay was a "sin". So this isn't a matter of wanted to defend loved ones who are homosexual. This is about just being accepting and loving of all kinds of people.


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