<!-- Begin meta tags generated by ORblogs --> </meta name="keywords" content="progressive, liberal, politics, government, edit, language, grammar, accuracy, honesty, clarity, world, news, media" /> </> <!-- End meta tags generated by ORblogs -->> Editor at Large: This is just the beginning

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

This is just the beginning

Since school began this fall, Brad Mathewson, a gay 16-year-old student at Webb City High School in Missouri, has been wearing T-shirts to school expressing his support of gay pride. On October 20, when he was wearing a T-shirt imprinted with a pink triangle and the words "Make a Difference!" (What? That's outrageous!), he was called in to the principal's office and told to either turn the shirt inside out or go home and change. Instead, he traded shirts with a friend, who wore the shirt the rest of the day without incident. (Hmmm...was the other student straight?)

A week later, Mathewson was wearing a T-shirt with a rainbow and the words, "I'm gay and I'm proud" (Gasp! Appalling!), and when told again to either turn the shirt inside out or leave, he went home. He was eventually ordered not to return to school wearing clothing supporting gay rights.

The ACLU of Kansas and Western Missouri wrote to the school on Oct. 28, citing a 1969 ruling by the Supreme Court that students have a constitutional right to free speech except where school officials can demonstrate that it would "materially and substantially interfere with the requirements of appropriate discipline in the operation of the school." This exception doesn't apply in Mathewson's case, the ACLU said, since Mathewson had previously worn the Gay-Straight Alliance T-shirt to school several times without causing any disruption. (Except in the minds of the homophobes, of course.)

The school hasn't responded, and the ACLU has filed a lawsuit in federal court in Kansas City, Missouri, seeking an injunction that would bar the school from censoring Mathewson's speech.

Good luck to the ACLU and Mathewson—and a pox on Webb City High School.



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