Federal judge upholds school's ban on anti-gay T-shirt

By The Associated Press
04.18.07

CHICAGO — Two Neuqua Valley High School students won’t be able to wear T-shirts saying “Be Happy, Not Gay,” to school tomorrow following a judge’s ruling.

U.S. District Judge William T. Hart ruled in favor of the high school yesterday on a preliminary injunction that would have allowed the students to wear the shirts the day after today’s National Day of Silence.

On the Day of Silence, students can refrain from speaking as an effort to protest discrimination against homosexuals.

The Arizona-based Alliance Defense Fund is representing Heidi Zamecnik of Naperville and Alexander Nuxoll of Bolingbrook in a lawsuit that claims Zamecnik’s rights were violated last year when she wasn’t allowed to wear the shirt in school.

The Alliance Defense Fund, a conservative Christian litigation group, will appeal the judge’s decision on the preliminary injunction to the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, attorney Jonathan Scruggs said. The lawsuit is still pending.

Scruggs said the school was violating the students’ rights to free speech by banning the shirt.

“The school cannot silence speech merely because some people find it offensive,” Scruggs said. “We believe that’s the core of what the First Amendment protects.”

Jack Canna, an attorney for Indian Prairie Unit School District 204, said banning the shirt was part of a policy “to preserve the notion that kids shouldn’t make negative or derogatory comments about other students.”

Messages left by the Associated Press with the school district and the high school were not returned in time for this story.