School Sends Teen Wearing ‘Gay’ Shirt Home

April 8th, 2010 by

WHITE HOUSE, Tenn. – Just about anything is printed on a T-shirt, but a certain slogan has sparked a fight over free speech at a local high school.
It isn’t a four-letter word that’s the problem; it’s a three-letter word: gay.
Cole Goforth’s mother said the school is violating her son’s freedom of speech and expression rights because kids who wear religious shirts and rebel flag shirts aren’t sent home. The school said a shirt he wore is a disruption.
“I got it at the Rivergate Mall,” Cole said.
The 15-year-old doesn’t try to hide his sexual orientation. But his actions drew the attention of Greenbrier High School administrators on Monday. When they saw the shirt, a takeoff on performer Lady GaGa’s name, they sent him home to change. The shirt said “I Heart Lady Gay Gay.”
“She said I had to remove the shirt that it was going to cause disruption in the school,” said Cole.
Cole’s mom said he’s worn shirts that say “gay” to school in the past with no problems and feels that this is less about the shirt and more about her son’s look and orientation.
“I think they are singling him out, I really do, and they’ve made statements that if he wore this in California, he’d fit in just fine,” said Julie Gordon.
The Robertson County School Board dress code does not specifically ban shirts with the word “gay” on them. But it does say that each principal can interpret the dress code and take action if a student’s dress causes a disruption.
Administrators said they stepped in Monday because of a fight that happened the week before.
“We’ve had a few disruptions the last few days, and we thought the slogan on that shirt would continue to escalate those incidents that had occurred,” said Danny Weeks, assistant director of the school board.
Cole sees it differently.
“I just think my sexuality isn’t widely accepted around here, so of course they are going to single me out,” he said.
His mother said if other students are allowed to express themselves by wearing religious and rebel flag shirts, her son should be able to wear shirts that reflect his views on sexual orientation.
“It cannot be just my child cannot wear that shirt because it states an opinion,” said Gordon. “We need to take all the shirts out that state opinions.”
The school said Cole’s mother can appeal the dress code.
He isn’t in trouble; he just had to change his shirt.

One Response

  1. Johnny BigLeagues

    The shirt’s words are harmless. Any disruption that it ‘may’ cause is an opportunity to address and discuss intolerance in an educational setting. Personally, I find the actions of the school administrators shameful. Sending Cole home only drew more attention to an otherwise innocuous tee-shirt.

    Perhaps the school district should consider banning all printed tee-shirts across the board and only allow students to wear blank colored tee-shirts. If students and parents complain, you can remind them that blank tee-shirts are far less expensive than over-priced printed tee-shirts.

    Simply put, allow them all or not at all.

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