Court rules that high school students can wear anti-gay T-shirts

Thu. March 3, 2011 5:53 AM by News Staff

Naperville, Ill. - The U.S. Court of Appeals ruled this week that students at Nequa Valley High School in Naperville, Ill., have the right to wear "Be Happy, Not Gay" T-shirts to school.

The case started back in 2006, when some students decided to wear the T-shirts as an anti-gay statement on the same day that other kids were showing supports for gays by staying silent.

Administrators told the kids to edit the shirt down to "Be Happy."

The court ruled that this violated the students' First Amendment Right to free speech.

Indian Prairie School District 204 Superintendent Kathy Birkett told the Chicago Tribune she and others were disappointed.

"School administrators work diligently to make sure the school environment feels safe so all students can focus on learning," she said. "As educators, we believe derogatory speech is a distraction that can prevent students from achieving their best."

The case was brought by a legal group that defends Christian causes.

"It sets a precedent that students, Christians or otherwise, who have speech that may not be the politically correct speech, may not be the most popular speech, (can) feel free to express their views just like anyone else," Alliance Defense Fund counsel Nate Kellum told the Tribune.

The ACLU told the Tribune that while they disagreed with the "Be Happy, Not Gay" sentiment, they did support the students right to express it.

This Court of Appeals First Amendment ruling comes during the same week that the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that members of the Westboro Baptist Church have the right to picket with anti-gay signs at U.S. military funerals.