US student sues school for banning him from wearing anti-homophobia t-shirt
A student at a high school in Cincinnati, Ohio has filed a law suit in federal court today, after school officials refused to let him wear a t-shirt that read: “Jesus is not a homophobe.”
Maverick Couch, 17, of Waynesville High School wanted to wear the t-shirt on April 20 to show his support for the Day of Silence, which draws attention to the plight of LGBT students who suffer from bullying and abuse. However, the school principal, Randy Gebhardt, has repeatedly rejected the request, the suit alleges.
Mr Couch said that the t-shirt in question was not permitted because it was deemed “indecent and sexual in nature.” Exceptions were also taken to the image of the fish, a symbol of importance to the Christian faith.
“I don’t think the shirt is sexual at all,” Mr Couch added. “I don’t know how I can say that. I don’t think it’s indecent.”
The school district’s superintendent, Pat Dubbs, speaking to the local media, said Mr Gebhardt considered the shirt a distraction, and had asked the student to wear it inside out, when he wore it to school last year. “We’re in the business of education and our main concern is maintaining an environment that is conducive to education,” Mr Dubbs said.
He added that the suit was unexpected, but maintained that the primary purpose of school is learning.
Meanwhile, Mr Couch’s lawyer, Christopher Clark, said that the student had tried for months to resolve the dispute, but to no avail. He also accused the school of bullying, and of shaming Mr Couch into not wearing his shirt.
The plaintiffs are asking the US District Judge Michael Barrett an order granting him freedom to wear the t-shirt, in addition to seeking attorney fees and “nominal” damages.