Arkansas High School Student Suspended for Gay-Supportive T-Shirt


A lesbian student at Ramsey Junior High School in Fort Smith, Arkansas was suspended for three days for wearing a gay-supportive T-shirt to school.

 NWA reports:

"15-year old Sommer Collins, a 9th grader at Ramsey Junior High in Fort Smith, is openly gay. On Tuesday, Sommer claims the school suspended her for three days all because of a t-shirt she wore pertaining to homosexuality. Now the shirt has no profanity or vulgarity on it, however according to Collins, one of her teachers told her mother that the word homosexual depicts sexual acts and that it was disrupting education. Collins says the whole reason she wore the shirt in the first place stems from the day before when a teacher asked her to remove a rainbow colored bracelet."

The ACLU should definitely take a look at this.

Watch the video (not embeddable), which has much more information here.


  1. says

    So if she wore a t-shirt that said “support heterosexual love” would she have been suspended? She ought to get a friend to wear it and see what happens. Double standard anyone?

  2. Disgusted American says

    she should have a shirt that says:

    “Support Homosexual & Heterosexual LOVE”

    …lets see what the hatin state of Ak. says about that!

  3. gregv says

    “Support heterosexual love” would come across as demeaning to gay people, since heterosexuals have ample support already. It would be like a white person in the ’50’s wearing a shirt that says “support white-people’s drinking fountains” when blacks were the only ones being either barred from access to the water or sent around back to the old rusty fountain.

    Regarding the homophobic teacher’s ideas that the word “homosexual” = “sex acts:”

    It’s so common among ignorant people to have been so brainwashed into thinking of nothing but sex (especially very graphic ideas about specific sex acts that they never seem to realize may not even be taking place) when they hear of gay people or same-sex relationships.

    We can be sure that when that same teacher sees a fellow heterosexual teacher show off an engagement ring or refer to an opposite-sex spouse, she does not immediately snarl as her mind goes immediately go to the woman’s hirsute anus or to the idea that the female fiancee might be drinking the man’s urine or something.

    Probably when the homophobic teacher was a kid, she asked, “What’s a homosexual?” and someone on the playground described some graphic sex act that she’d heard about from her parents or a crazy preacher.

    Of course, the answer: “It’s a woman who falls in love with a woman or a man who falls in love with a man” would suffice just fine.

  4. Ignatios says

    This isn’t surprising coming from “Fort Shit”, as us in NWA call it. Ft. Smith is a terrible city. Two rival high schools, Southside & Northside. Wanna guess which one is the pre-dom white one; Southside Rebels and Northside Grizzlies. I really do hope the ACLU gets involved.

  5. says

    I in no way would support what the school did but I have to point out how I could sympathize a bit.

    A while after I came out my mother and I were talking about the experience and she confided in me that she was fine with it but she doesn’t like to imagine the word “sexual” related to one of her sons, which she was forced to do when hearing the term “homosexual.” She knows we all have sex -hell my brothers all have kids- but it’s the blatant connection of the word “sex” with one’s offspring that rubbed her the wrong way. I know it’s puritanical and she should “get over it” but she comes from a different time than I do and I respect that.

    I’m not saying this justifies the school censoring a student for expressing support where it is so sorely needed but I’m curious if, had it said “gay love,” they would have had the same response.

  6. johnny says

    Not to bash the messenger, but it’s sort of ignorant in this day and age for anyone who is gay to use “homosexual” instead of “gay”. We’ve all moved on to a more educated way of telling people about our biological differences.

    I doubt the end result would have been the same had the girl simply used the G-word. After all, it’s “homosexual” that the right wing-nuts always use because it sounds so much more deviant in their ears. If we call ourselves “homosexuals”, we lose and kowtow to the religious right’s terminology.

  7. Justanotherguy says

    This doesn’t surprise me considering it’s Fart Smith. It embarrasses me though when I see stories like this in my state, especially when it’s from around my area. I’m lucky I live in one of the most liberal areas in Arkansas. This girl and her parents should speak up. Get em ACLU!

  8. Randy says

    @Christopher: Did your mom get offended every time she had to fill out a form at the doctor’s office and it asked your sex?

    That’s not something to be respected. It’s something to be corrected. It’s not “cute puritanical views from a former generation” it’s “ignorance.”

    But honestly it sounds like if you can talk to your mom about it these days that she’s probably no longer ignorant on the subject. This teacher, however, still is.

  9. says

    @Randy It is a parent’s right to teach their kids about sex but to also be uncomfortable about it. In a time where I have to wear my sexuality on my sleeve for the sake of visibility, I can understand why my mother would not want to hear the word “sex” and “sexual” as a moniker on her son.

    She isn’t ignorant to the social changes that have taken places, but you can talk to ANY PR FIRM IN THE WORLD especially those having to do with LGBT rights and they will tell you to avoid the word “homosexual” because it is not only clinical sounding but also conjures the image that being gay has only to do with the root of that word: SEX.

    If a mother wants to see their child through rose-colored glasses and not imagine them having anal sex with men I think that’s their right entirely.

    Trying to loop together the clinical term “sex,” as in gender, with Homosexual is a truly ignorant argument if I’ve ever heard one. I’m not trying to downplay the injustice of what happened in Arkansas here, but you also have to take yourself out of a situation for a second before you become too vehement and miss the point entirely. It’s a valid question to raise regarding the word “Gay” and the word “Homosexual.”

  10. Vince B. says

    Christopher: The T shirt was created in reaction to her being told to remove a rainbow colored wrist band. WHEN ARE WE GOING TO STOP APOLOGIZING FOR WHO WE ARE. (that’s not a question)

  11. says

    Correct, but the t-shirt was asked to be changed because “one of her teachers told her mother that the word homosexual depicts sexual acts and that it was disrupting education” which is the point I’m trying to make.

    The root of the problem is not justifiable BUT I can also see how the word homosexual still inspires ire from conservative folk. That isn’t an excuse or an apology, it’s purely rhetoric.

  12. Matt S. says

    This really begins with the rainbow bracelet. A rainbow bracelet most certainly doesn’t HAVE to represent gays at all. Some girls just like rainbows. Big whoop.

    Even if it was meant to be a pride bracelet, so what? Would that teacher tell a student to remove his WWJD bracelet?

    The shirt probably did disrupt class. I mean, that was part of the point, to bring attention to the issue. But suspension was a really stupid way to handle this. The teacher should be reprimanded for the bracelet incident.

  13. Kyle says

    This is fucking retarded, get the ALCU involved? What a crock of shit. Yes this is a disgusting act of intolerance, but the solution isn’t crying to the ACLU every goddamn time.

    Sometimes we need to be mature about it and let the assholes win. Is it wrong what they did? No doubt. But what’s the point in getting every liberal organization and their fucking grandmother involved going to do? Nothing.

  14. Van in San Diego says

    I disagree with letting the assholes win. Ever!

    The family has filed a complaint. They should follow up with that.

    The teacher who made Sommer remove the rainbow bracelet should apologize and he/she should be reprimanded.

    The shirt probably was a bit over the top but, as someone pointed out near the top, if it had said “support heterosexual love” would there have been a problem? Doubtful! Double standard. The suspension should be reversed.

    It is not illegal to be Gay. The word Homosexual, while clinical, is not immoral and certainly can be printed on a shirt. A few months back a kid won in court a case to have a shirt that said “Lady Gay Gay.” This is a similar issue.

    If the teacher had not told Sommer to remove the bracelet, Sommer would not have made the shirt. She was only pushing back against the bigotry and oppression of the teacher. And I say good for her! And good for her family for standing up for her. Hopefully she will be a teen we won’t lose like so many others because she and her family are standing up and fighting back against the bullying teacher and whoever at the school decided on the suspension.

    If the school balks, call in the ACLU. It is a free speech issue. Someone pointed out above that people wear crosses and religious trinkets so a rainbow bracelet certainly would fall into the same category.

    Three cheers for you Sommer and the Collins Family. Keep fighting the bigots and bullies!

  15. says

    Although the girl should be protected by the 1st amendment, I can see where her shirt would have caused a distraction. This was definitely her intent. I can also sympathize with the school in this situation as well though.

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