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    Student banned from wearing “Jesus is not a homophobe” T-shirt

    Date: 05.11.12 | by Judge Tom.

    The National Day of Silence is a student-led event to raise awareness about bullying and harassment of LGBT students. Participants agree to remain silent throughout the day – handing out brief statements explaining the event to teachers and others. The Day of Silence was celebrated on April 20, 2012.

    In recognition of this event, 16-year old Maverick Couch started wearing a T-shirt proclaiming “Jesus is Not a Homophobe.” A rainbow colored Jesus fish (the ichthys symbol) accompanied the words.

    The principal of Waynesville High School in Ohio told Maverick to remove his shirt or turn it inside out. He was told the shirt was indecent and inappropriate. A letter from the school district’s lawyer characterized the shirt as “sexual in nature and therefore….inappropriate in a school setting.” Maverick was told if he wore it again, he would be suspended.

    Maverick and his mother filed a lawsuit in federal court asserting a violation of free expression. The school then agreed to allow Maverick to wear the shirt only on April 20th. His lawyer commented that “a student’s First Amendment rights are not restricted to one day of the year – we will continue to fight until Maverick is allowed to express who he is on any day he chooses.”

    Maverick is a junior at the school and is seeking nominal damages and payment of his attorney’s fees. He is gay and commented that “I’ve been bullied and called names, and I wanted to wear this shirt to promote respect for all students, gay or straight. I am just trying to stand up for who I am and for what I believe in.” Maverick’s lawyer explained that “Schools should be in the business of educating students about First Amendment freedoms not trampling on their right to express themselves.”

    Update: In May, 2012, the parties reached an agreement and the judge signed off on it. The school district agreed to a judgment in Maverick’s favor. The judge wrote that Maverick “is expressly permitted to wear the ‘Jesus is Not a Homophobe’ T-shirt to school when he chooses.” He was also awarded $20,000 for damages, court costs and attorney fees. Kudos to Maverick for standing up for his rights.



    Judge Tom

    This post was written by Judge Tom. Judge Tom is the founder and moderator of AsktheJudge.info. He is a retired juvenile judge and spent 23 years on the bench. He has written several books for lawyers and judges as well as teens and parents including the recently published 'Teen Cyberbullying Investigated' (Free Spirit Publishing). When he's not answering teens' questions, Judge Tom can be found hiking, traveling and reading.

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    • Natalie
      Sat, 12 May 2012 at 09:11

      I think the student should be allowed to wear the shirt any day he wants during the school year.