• Tolerance wins out over censorship

    Date: 12.19.07 | by Judge Tom.

    In September, 2007, Heather Farnham, a 16-year-old student at Spencer-Van Etten High School in New York, was sent home for wearing a T-shirt that read “gay? fine by me.”  The principal thought the message would cause a disruption at school by prompting anti-gay responses.  Most schools are aware of the Tinker standard for taking pre-emptive action against speech, but where to draw the line is often difficult to assess.

    heatherfarnhamgaytshirt

    Photo from Edgeboston.com

    Heather challenged the decision and in December, 2007 the school district admitted that Heather’s T-shirt was a form of protected expression.  There was no hard evidence that on-campus disruption would result from the T-shirt’s message.   The principal apologized to Heather and a statement was read over the school’s loudspeaker that the dress code does not prohibit students from displaying controversial or political messages.

    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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