Free Speech Press Release

11.01.12

ACLU Challenges Unconstitutional Censorship at Celina High School

Students Have a Well-Established First Amendment Right to Wear Clothing Expressing Their Beliefs

Read the letter to Celina City High School

CELINA, OH – The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio sent a letter to Celina High School today, urging administrators to reconsider their unconstitutional decision to prohibit students from wearing shirts that express their support of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) students.

“Schools should be a place where students are free to express their beliefs,” said ACLU of Ohio Legal Director James Hardiman. “None of these young people acted inappropriately, and only wished to express their support for all members of their community. Expressing their views did not disrupt the learning environment, but now the administration’s unconstitutional overreaction has.”

“The school has silenced these students on the basis that other individuals who disagree with their message may become upset and disruptive,” added Hardiman. “This amounts to a ‘heckler’s veto’ and is not a valid justification for suppressing free speech.”

Media reports have alleged that as many as 20 students were asked by school administrators to remove their shirts. Administrators have offered various justifications for their actions, including the fact that the shirts were “political.” However, students have reported that they are routinely permitted to wear anti-abortion T-shirts to school as well as shirts that express support for, or criticism of specific political candidates.

“Allowing some students to wear shirts with political messages, while prohibiting others from doing the same thing is a clear case of unconstitutional censorship,” said Hardiman. “Regardless of the viewpoint they are expressing, students do not shed their First Amendment rights when they enter school.”

“The ACLU is actively investigating these reports,” added Hardiman, “We are also soliciting information from students and parents regarding a culture of censorship and viewpoint discrimination in Celina High School.”