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Graduate claims high school clamped down on anti-gay message

By The Associated Press

LANSING, Mich. — An Ann Arbor high school graduate is suing her alma mater, claiming the school violated her free-speech right to criticize homosexuality during a diversity program.

An attorney for Ann Arbor Public Schools says Betsy Hansen had plenty of opportunities to give her opinion during the weeklong event.

The conservative, Ann Arbor-based Thomas More Center for Law and Justice filed a federal lawsuit July 10 on behalf of Hansen, who said Pioneer High School violated her civil rights during its Diversity Week last March.

Hansen, who graduated in June, said she was forced to remove comments about homosexuality from her speech to an all-school assembly and was prohibited from being on a panel that discussed religion and homosexuality. Hansen, who is Roman Catholic, objects to homosexuality on the basis of her religious beliefs.

Len Niehoff, an attorney for the school district, said Hansen’s speech was not censored and school officials reviewed all the students' speeches before the assembly. They asked Hansen to take another look at one paragraph that included references to race and homosexuality, he said.

Hansen gave the speech, but didn't mention race or homosexuality because she was told not to, said Robert Muise of the Thomas More Center. Muise said Hansen wanted to say, "I completely and wholeheartedly support racial diversity, but I can't accept religious and sexual ideas or actions that are wrong."

Muise also said Hansen was told she couldn't be a member of the panel on religion and homosexuality "because her message was a negative message and it would water down the positive message they wanted to convey."

Niehoff said she wasn't allowed to participate because she didn't attend a mandatory meeting. He also pointed out that only adults were on the panel.

Some students who organized the discussion felt that views of people who oppose homosexuality are often heard, and therefore they recruited the panelists who supported homosexuality, Niehoff said.

"Students had ample opportunity to exchange and express ideas during Diversity Week," Niehoff said. An open-mike session was held the last day of the event.

The federal lawsuit names the district, the Pioneer High School principal, assistant principal, three teachers and district's equity officer.

Federal judge: Michigan school erred in barring student's opinion
Court finds Elizabeth Hansen should have been allowed to express her Catholic views in panel discussion about religion, homosexuality. 12.08.03


Debating homosexuality in schools: Censorship doesn’t work

By Charles C. Haynes Trying to stifle speech for or against homosexuality rides on false hope that harmony, tolerance will prevail if no one is allowed to say anything that might offend anyone. 08.24.03

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