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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.

John Martin June 14, 2012 at 04:35 PM
Just a teacher of government and student of Constitutional history, Mac - but thanks for the accolades. The way I understand it, trademarks need to have a degree of uniqueness to be protected. A rainbow incorporated as part of a larger image - rainbow play systems, for example - can be trademarked because the rainbow, while prominent, is only part of the logo. Glsen's - and other groups - usage of the rainbow as part of the logos is acceptable legally as the rainbow itself is a sort of generic icon. It pretty much transcends being claimed as property. I remember a few years ago, some chocolate company tried to trademark the Easter Bunny and failed miserably. Their usage of this icon is another form of free expression. As long as the use of an image does not unfairly usurp the rights of the holder, even trademarked images can be used against the will of the holder. Fair use and satirical use of trademarked images has a long and solid case history. In almost every case I remember reading about, the Court almost uniformly sides with free expression. While images have power - especially in our media rich environment, I argue that they only have the power we allow them to have.
John Yannacci, Sr. June 14, 2012 at 08:44 PM
Alan Green, Jr., People are not defending the wearing of the shirt, they are defending the Constitutional right of free speach. The fact that you disagree with the speech doesn't alter the equation.
MAC June 14, 2012 at 08:57 PM
Thanks, John, for your informative answer. Are you saying I just have to tell myself "don't think about obnoxious gay activists" when I see a rainbow patterned umbrella, etc.? (It's the in-your-face activism I find obnoxious.) I really don't want to hear/read/see (in parades, etc) ANYONE'S ("gay" or straight) "sexual orientation" shoved in my face! I think it is just so sad that many of these activists' self-esteem is so lacking that they need a government 'stamp of approval,' or other stroke to their egos. In my view, if I am confident in my beliefs or course of action--that it is right--then I don't care what other people think about those beliefs or actions. Imo, if what one does makes the person feel uncomfortable in his/her own skin, then that just may be the person's "conscience" trying to get his/her attention. And boy, am I in for it now, if any "activists" read this!
MAC June 14, 2012 at 09:08 PM
John, your students are likely very fortunate, to have an excellent teacher of government and the Constitution, if your posts here reflect your teaching style, beyond the extensive knowledge you have! Sadly, millions of U.S. students are being taught a very perverted version of our nation's history, our Constitution, and the proper role of "government" vis-a-vis our free enterprise system, and "We the People."
jay August 25, 2012 at 02:19 PM
Funny, but 30 years ago the same t-shirt without the slash would have been banned.

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