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Illinois School Refuses to Discipline Students Who Wear 'Straight Pride' T-shirts During Gay Bullying Prevention Week

Three students at St. Charles North High School in suburban Chicago decided to wear "Straight Pride" T-shirts to school during the school's "ally week" on Monday. "Ally week" is meant to raise awareness about anti-gay bullying.

The St. Charles Republican reports: Straightpride2

Michael Fairbanks, president of the St. Charles East Gay-Straight Alliance, sent out an e-mail to the media last night saying a group of St. Charles North boys came to school yesterday with shirts that read “STRAIGHT PRIDE” on the front and “If a man lay with a male as those who lay with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination and shall surely be put to DEATH,” a Bible verse from Leviticus 20:13.

“Students were greatly offended,” Fairbanks said in the e-mail. “Fellow classmates are saying gay people should be put to death because they are gay. Who wouldn’t be offended?”

St. Charles Community Unit School District 303 spokesman Jim Blaney said once the building administrators became aware of the shirts, the three students wearing them were called into the deans’ office to discuss the matter. They were sent back to class and later were called back for a second discussion.

Blaney said the administration wanted to explain to students that they have a right to express their point of view, but they also wanted to make the students aware that their message could be seen as hurtful by other students.

Fairbanks said in his e-mail that multiple codes of the student handbook were violated, including a passage stating that students should not disrupt the educational process or interfere with a positive learning and teaching environment through clothing.

According to the Kane County Chronicle, the students were not punished:

District 303 spokesman Jim Blaney said three students showed up Monday at St. Charles North wearing shirts that said “Straight Pride” on the front and quoting a Biblical verse from Leviticus on the back of the shirt referencing death as the punishment for homosexual behavior.

The students were initially called into their deans’ offices after the shirts created tension among the other students, Blaney said. There was then a second discussion with the students.

“The students said their intent was not to intimidate any one or cause physical harm,” Blaney said. “Their intention was to show their pride in being straight.”

The school reportedly wanted to use the incident as a "teachable moment" for freedom of expression. Seriously? During "ally week"? I'm sure that all the bullied gay and lesbian teens in that school district feel safe now.

Blaney and St. Charles better hope they don't have a gay suicide on their hands.

Stcharles Said Senior Steven Boi, one of the students who wore a "straight pride" t-shirt, to the Daily Herald:

"The reason why we wore the shirts was just to express our views. People have said Ally Week is for everyone, but after Monday it was clear that it was more designed for homosexual students. We wore our shirts on Tuesday to express our views that we're straight, and we have the right to express that. But my dean told me on Tuesday, because of the people who wore the other shirts on Monday, our shirts were considered disruptive to the learning environment. To me, Ally Week itself has been disruptive. Instead of learning in class, we have to sit there and talk about all this other stuff that's happening because of Ally Week...There is clearly a double standard here, and we're really upset about this. They said the reason we can't wear ‘Straight Pride' shirts is because they are disruptive. And I can understand how maybe some people were intimidated by the shirts with the Bible verse. But I don't understand how some students are able to wear ‘Gay Pride' shirts while we can't wear shirts that just say ‘Straight Pride.' We wanted to wear them because we wanted to raise the fact that we were getting ripped on for supporting our straight sexuality, and also as a way to prove that our school has double standards.”

The Daily Herald reports that tensions are still rising at the school:

"Word is spreading that a larger showing of students may wear 'Straight Pride' or all-black shirts in protest of the district's decision to ask student not to wear anything containing those words. And when Friday comes, the Illinois chapter of the ACLU will be watching."

*Note: photo above is from a Michigan Tea Party rally, and not a student at the school.

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  1. Free speech. You may not like it, but it works both ways.

    Posted by: LS | Nov 11, 2010 11:45:30 AM

  2. Let them have their freedom of speech. The administration of the school should hold a lecture for the students on the nature of religiously centered bigotry. This is EXACTLY the sort of intimidation that undermines the mental well-being of vulnerable gay people. You are right. Let this behavior continue and you will have a wave of gay suicides. These people are disgusting.

    Posted by: candideinncc | Nov 11, 2010 11:48:08 AM

  3. I'm a foreign-born lawyer in the US. The thing that will always baffle me about the American notion of 'free speech' is that it does not exclude incitement to violence, like the text on the back of these shirts. It's a rare country whose laws don't draw a distinction around that.

    Posted by: tcw | Nov 11, 2010 11:50:08 AM

  4. Disruptive speech and self expression can be and is limited in public schools.

    Posted by: Kelehe | Nov 11, 2010 11:50:11 AM

  5. They should have a lecture on how that verse is a mistranslation and what it actually says in Hebrew. It's very far from the meaning of the English word "abomination".

    The reason why gay pride t-shirts are ok is obviously because they don't call for the execution of straight people.

    Posted by: Steve | Nov 11, 2010 11:52:24 AM

  6. I wouldn't be so quick to blame the students because it sounds like adults were involved in this decision. For kids to go out of their way to basically protest like this is really unbelievable. Straight boys in High School have much better things to focus on, but thsi sounds like a parent or two who want to send a message.

    Let's see what would happen if the parents wore the same shirts to their jobs... if they have one.

    Posted by: Hollywood, CA | Nov 11, 2010 11:54:54 AM

  7. Personally, I wouldn't have a problem with them wearing the shirts if it weren't for the bible verse on the back, especially if the word death was, in fact, capitalized.

    Posted by: Joey | Nov 11, 2010 11:55:12 AM

  8. So it's normal to have students wearing shirts with bible verses condemning an entire group of people to death for being who they are?

    That's not straight pride, asshole. That's a threat.

    Posted by: Gridlock | Nov 11, 2010 11:56:11 AM

  9. So calling for the death of another is just fine as long as you do it in the form of a bible verse. Got it. God bless America. Ug.

    Posted by: Mike | Nov 11, 2010 11:58:17 AM

  10. There would be no problem except for the bible verses and the capitalization of death.

    Posted by: Tyler | Nov 11, 2010 12:04:47 PM

  11. The chutzpah for printing a verse from Leviticus on a cotton / poly blend (even if the shirts are cotton the stitching is certainly synthetic) - it's just epic.

    Posted by: JamesR | Nov 11, 2010 12:07:54 PM

  12. I am sort of stunned at the "Straight Pride" student's response. It's very succinct and insightful; time went into the choice of these shirts. I commend that. And I also agree with him that the code was the shirts are not to be a distraction, however an event like that would be a distraction to all the students. I also agree with the staff that the students should be able to express their freedom of speech and use this event as a learning experience.

    However, it is the Bible verse on the back that is the issue. And it's not the fact it is a Bible verse but rather the instigating violence that is the issue. If there was a version of this shirt without the Bible verse, I would be 100% for these kid's support.

    Posted by: dbzeag | Nov 11, 2010 12:10:02 PM

  13. Sorry, but ugly Christian bigots have free speech too.

    Posted by: Max | Nov 11, 2010 12:10:56 PM

  14. "I don't understand how some students are able to wear ‘Gay Pride' shirts while we can't wear shirts that just say ‘Straight Pride.' "

    Um... but thy didn't JUST say "straight pride," did they? They also said "they shall surely be put to DEATH." Just "straight pride" is fine -- idiotic, but not a problem. "Put to DEATH" is a problem and should not be allowed in school, Bible or no.

    And I agree with Jamesr that it is quite ironic they're printing Leviticus on mixed fabrics. But that would require them to think, which I suspect is beyond them and their parents and their parents' preachers.

    Posted by: Kevinvt | Nov 11, 2010 12:18:08 PM

  15. "Freedom of Speech" = Hate Speech Rules

    Posted by: David Ehrenstein | Nov 11, 2010 12:18:17 PM

  16. Now if it were white students wearing white pride shirts during black history month, they would be disciplined and told to remove the shirts. EVERYONE knows this is true. I'm sorry to drag race and black folks into this issue, I'm just using it as an example of the schools hypocrisy. The school district has a legal right to restrict speech and expression on school property, and they do it all the time.

    That said, let them wear their shirts. If it ONLY said straight pride, I wouldn't really care myself.

    Posted by: ratbastard | Nov 11, 2010 12:21:43 PM

  17. I don't think anyone would have had an issue if the T-shirts just said, "Straight Pride" and that was it. It was the Bible verse on the back that was basically advocating death to gays and lesbians that was threatening and disruptive. These three young men weren't just expressing their heterosexuality, they were expressing their hate and threats of violence to LGBTs.

    Posted by: Keith | Nov 11, 2010 12:22:44 PM

  18. I'm sorry, but I'd rather fight for the rights of the kids in the "straight pride" T-shirts. They are huge douche bags, but free speech is free speech. Student speech is already too limited. The thing about that whole disruptive to the learning argument is that it will always play out that one side of an issue is disruptive and divisive, the other is okay. Well... that's not okay.

    The only part of the shirt that may be questionable is the word death at the end. Other than that, let them be. Maybe they'll mature one day, but babying them won't help the situation.

    Posted by: Jon B | Nov 11, 2010 12:24:31 PM

  19. Freedom of speech does not extend to minors in a school setting. That has been affirmed several times in various court cases - as have dress codes.

    The "Straight Pride" on the front was not offensive on its own, but the verse from Loony Leviticus section of that bad fiction book crossed the line. No one who advocated Ally Week was ever suggesting that Straight people should be put to death.

    I'd like to ask: where were the parents of the Straight Pride set. I'd bet money they're Tea Partiers.

    Posted by: Hank | Nov 11, 2010 12:26:35 PM

  20. I guess their 'White Pride' T Shirts, with kill all non-white christians on the back, were in the laundry.

    Posted by: patrick nyc | Nov 11, 2010 12:27:39 PM

  21. I feel like every post on every gay blog these days is yet another call to restrict homophobic speech. Yes, public schools can and do restrict speech. But usually it's gay speech they're trying to restrict as a "disruption." The point is that as gay people we should be the FIRST ones to support free speech in every form. We need it even more than they do.

    Posted by: lisa | Nov 11, 2010 12:30:56 PM

  22. Has anybody looked at the comment section on The Daily Herald's website? It's absolutely chock full of homophobic remarks and shouts of "indoctrination!" and "gay agenda!".

    I'm sure those folks would have no issues with shirts that said "White Pride" on the front and biblical passages quoting the rightness and justness of slavery. Good Book, indeed. I probably would've agreed with not disciplining the students if their shirts didn't mention KILLING other students, but come on now. There's open-mindedness and then there's NO-mind-at-all-edness.

    Posted by: Marcus | Nov 11, 2010 12:31:30 PM

  23. I'm in agreement with ratbastard. The straight pride student sounds as succinct and insightful as the idiots who complain about black pride and black history month, and then cry discrimination because they can't proclaim white pride or have a white history month.

    Minorities get the short end of the stick in a variety of ways and being prideful of being a part of a minority (gay, black, etc.) is a way to fight back against the shame, prejudice, and fear that is placed on you by the majority of society for being gay, black, a woman, etc.

    It doesn't mean *I* think I'm better than *you*, just that I won't be ashamed I'm gay and black, but I'm proud of it, because it makes me the unique person that I am.

    Posted by: Leonard | Nov 11, 2010 12:33:57 PM

  24. I think it's clear that if it was just "Straight Pride" printed on the shirts, there wouldn't be a problem here. That was my intial opinion and I'm glad others shared it here. Happy about being straight? Fine, be hppy. Nothing wrng with being straight. Wanna be proud? Sure! Go ahead, nothing wrong with me if you're proud of being straight.

    But a bible verse calling for someone's death? That's kind of wrong. I don't get how they can think calling for someone's death with a verse is a matter of pride and free speech. Remove the shirts with the verse, and this problem would just vanish if you ask me.

    Posted by: Cocoa | Nov 11, 2010 12:35:28 PM

  25. Death threats, including the use of fairy-tale book quotes, should be grounds for immediate expulsion from the school.

    Posted by: homer | Nov 11, 2010 12:40:30 PM

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