ACLU Opens Case Against Florida School

In a case that I first mentioned here in February, the ACLU has made its opening arguments in its challenge of a Florida high school that prevented a student from wearing items in support of gay rights.

A Florida high school is “trampling the First Amendment rights of students who support equal rights for gay people”, a federal judge was told on Monday. Heather Gillman, a 16-year-old junior at Ponce de Leon High School, is suing the school after she was told she could not wear buttons, stickers or cl0thing that supported LGBT civil rights.

After she received the warning the ACLU last November sent a letter in November to the school board’s attorney on behalf of Gillman, asking for clarification as to whether a variety of symbols and slogans, such as the rainbow flag or “I support my gay friends,” would be allowed at the school.

The school district replied that it would not allow any expressions of support for gay rights at all because such speech would “likely be disruptive.” The district then said that such symbols and slogans were signs that students were part of a “secret/illegal organization.” according to the ACLU.

ACLU attorney Benjamin James Stevenson: “Because the Supreme Court has held that students have a right to free speech at school unless that speech disrupts the educational process, many administrators think they can just slap the label ‘disruptive’ on anything they don’t like and get away with stomping on students’ First Amendment rights.” The ACLU is requesting an injunction to stop the school from suppressing free speech in the future.