School relents on teen's anti-abortion sweatshirt

By The Associated Press
03.23.04

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. — A high school student who was told to take off an anti-abortion sweatshirt in school now can wear it after a Christian law center raised the possibility of legal action.

Daniel Goergen wore a black, hooded sweatshirt to Denbigh High School that reads "Abortion is homicide" last month. An assistant principal told him to take it off or turn it inside out.

"I respected (her) opinion and did what she said because she's an administrator," Goergen said of the decision. "Then I got a lawyer to explain to her the right for me to wear it."

In response to a letter from the Thomas More Law Center in Ann Arbor, Mich., Chief Deputy City Attorney Leonard Wallin sent a letter March 12 informing Goergen's lawyers that he could wear the sweatshirt to school.

Wallin, who represents the school division, said that based on the details of the case presented to him, Goergen was within his rights to wear the sweatshirt. He added that these types of situations must be reviewed case by case.

At issue is whether wearing a garment with a message on it is going to be disruptive, Wallin said. "If there isn't a reasonable belief that it's going to create a disturbance, [school officials] can't ban the message even if they turn out to be wrong after the fact."

The law center has an arrangement with Rock For Life — an anti-abortion youth organization that sells the black sweatshirt — to represent students and others free of charge who are challenged while wearing such items.