Ohio High School Students Told To Remove Rainbow T-Shirts Supporting Gay Rights

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Just three days after Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan held an energetic rally in Celina, Ohio, the seat of one of the most firmly Republican counties in the state, the high school there is at the center of a debate over what constitutes "political" or "disruptive" clothing.

The debate at Celina High School started after two female high school students celebrated the high school's "Twin Day" last week by wearing shirts to school that read "Lesbian 1" and "Lesbian 2" on the back. They were promptly asked to remove the T-shirts, according to students there.

On Tuesday, some 20 students decided to show their support of the girls by wearing their own T-shirts to school. The shirts read: "I support..." with a photo of a rainbow. "Express yourself."...

Jimmy Walter, a sophomore at the public high school, says he organized the T-shirts in defense of his older sister, one of the female students who wore the Twin Day shirts. "My sister got yelled at and screamed at [by administrators], and she was basically told she was unwanted at the school because she was gay," he says.

Celina High School Superintendent Jesse Steiner says there are "definitely two stories" to the incident.

But both sides agree the students who wore the rainbow T-shirts were asked to remove them.

Students were told the T-shirts were prohibited because they were "political," according to Warner, despite no such rule in the school dress code. Steiner was not able to confirm if this rule was or wasn't part of the code.

Erick Warner, a junior at Celina High School, says students wear what he sees as political clothing to school all time.

"[Our high] school promotes their pro-life club called the 'Students for Life". They have their own shirts, which have a fetus and promotes pro-life," Warner wrote on Reddit, in a post about the incident that has now gone viral on the social news site. "How is that not considered "political"?

Warner, who did not wear the rainbow T-shirt but supports the students who did, says he also regularly sees classmates wear Mitt Romney T-shirts to school, or T-shirts that call President Obama a socialist.

Superintendent Steiner says it's more likely students were asked to remove the T-shirts because they were disruptive, not because they were political.

"The only reason they would be told that they couldn't wear something is if it is a disruption of the educational process, or if it's not allowed in the handbook," Steiner says. "And there's a line in our handbook about drawing undue attention to yourself."

The Ohio branch of the American Civil Liberties Union, a nonprofit that protects constitutional rights, doesn't think Steiner's argument holds any water. "This is what's called a 'heckler's veto,'" says Drew Dennis, a litigation coordinator at ACLU Ohio. "It sounds like the school is trying to silence the students who are expressing an unpopular viewpoint on the basis that there will be individuals who disagree with that message."

Walter, the protest organizer, argues that he and other students did not try to draw any undue attention to their shirts. Warner agrees, saying he didn't "give a second look" to the rainbow T-shirts. But the pro-life T-shirts featuring a fetus, he says, "you can see from a mile away."
James Wilgus
11/16/2012 04:17:59 am

I attended Celina Senior High School in the 80's,Sadly it sounds that people in Celina hasn't changed. I remember when I was in High School we hid from all the narrow minded people. there was a couple of students that came out, and paid dearly for it. After graduation I got the hell out of there and moved to Columbus. Today I am with my partner of 17 years, adopted 2 children, and live in a neighborhood who supports us as who we are. I'm pround of you for taking a stand! If you don't do this, nothing will ever change!! Good luck, and keep up the good work!

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Lia Harrison
11/16/2012 09:19:01 pm

I commend these teens for speaking up in a civilized and responsible way. However, what happened to school being about EDUCATION ? We are spending way too much time worrying about clothes, hair, who's dating who, and sexual preference. I'm seeing a large number of graduates leaving school, and not being able to sustain life with the education they have received in 13years. It's sad. What does school have to do with who your attracted to? Leave that outside the walls of education, and focus on school. NO ONE but you and GOD,needs to know what your sexual preference is. Romans 1:24 says it best. Please young people, lets get our priorities straight. Other youth in other countries are fighting some are losing their lives for FREE education. And here, in the USA, we are stuck , worrying about making people accept our sexual preference, which should be private-- between two consenting adults. Thank you, for allowing MY opinion. God bless, and I pray we start valuing those things that are important, those things God intended for our good.

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Raisa
11/19/2012 04:08:16 am

The school allows a Students for Life club which clearly is not focused on education. And since it is currently legal in the United States to get an abortion, then NO ONE but you, your medical care provider, and GOD (whichever deity you believe in) need to know whether or not you have one. Take a step back and look at your argument.

If other students are allowed to wear pro-life or anti-Obama shirts, then the school needs to be fair and allow these shirts also. It may come down to no one being allowed to wear any shirts along these lines, including the students in the Students for Life organization, and if that turns out to be the case, then these students need to make sure they bring up the inequalities in the enforcement of the dress code whenever they occur.

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