Ohio School Setting Itself Up For Gay Lawsuit Loss

Ohio-Pro-Gay-T-ShirtOfficials at Celina High School in Ohio last week ordered 20 students to remove t-shirts reading "Straight but Supportive" and "I Support [rainbow illustration] Express Yourself" because they claim the shirts were "political" and therefore disruptive.

"The only reason they would be told that they couldn’t wear something is if it is a disruption of the educational process, or if it’s not allowed in the handbook," said school Superintendent Jesse Steiner. "And there’s a line in our handbook about drawing undue attention to yourself."

ThinkProgress' Zack Ford, who calls Steiner's reading of that policy as "grossly unconstitutional," provides background:

Last week, two students at Celina High School celebrated “Twin Day” with T-shirts that read “Lesbian 1″ and “Lesbian 2,” but they were forced to remove them. In response, some 20 students went to school Tuesday wearing home-made T-shirts that read “I Support… [Rainbow] Express Yourself” and “Straight but Supportive,” a show of support organized by sophomore Jimmy Walter.

Assistant Principal Phil Metz forced all the students to remove the shirts because they were “political,” and those who did not were given detention with the threat of suspension.

But one of the students involved pointed out that her peers often where wear pro-life shirts, pro-Romney shirts or apparel that claims President Obama is a socialist. Celina High School also just hosted GOP vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan. The claims of "political disruption" therefore are entirely partisan. Both Celina High School and the students are calling in their respective lawyers.

But Ford notes, this debate has basically been settled since 1969: "In the 1969 case of Tinker v. Des Moines, the Supreme Court ruled that "state-operated schools may not be enclaves of totalitarianism" and students are entitled to free speech so long as it does not 'interfere with the requirements of appropriate discipline in the operation of the school.'" Celina High School will no doubt go down in court.

A similar case arose from the Buckeye State earlier this year when student Maverick Couch won a lawsuit against school officials who tried to ban his "Jesus is not a homophobe" shirt.


  1. Francis says

    Stupid Republicans. Oh well. I’m assuming there will be a settlement out of court in this case.

    The gay-supportive teens have now learned what out LGBT citizens deal with daily in these rural towns. I’m sure these discriminatory actions will only empower them further. Good on them for taking a stand and not backing down to the bigot Steiner.

  2. Tristram says

    There is nothing political about the t-shirts. Where was the political affiliation or party etc mentioned? All i can see is a t-shirt that supports their friends who happen to be gay in the face of ignorance and bigotry. I guess they can now add stupidity to that list.

  3. Lucas H says

    Wow, that is messed up. I understand a high school banning shirts that have foul language or narcotics or guns, etc… but this is just ridiculous. A line in their handbook about “drawing undue attention” to yourself? Seriously?!?

  4. Jack says


    Even if it IS political, defining all political speech as disruptive is a transparent attempt to do what the court in Tinker said that schools may not do. If the court finds it was political, that makes no difference on the outcome. The school loses either way on this one.

  5. mike8787 says

    Tinker is right on point here. This school district has to show that wearing the shirts would materially and substantially interfere with discipline and operation of the school. Given their willingness to permit pro-right messages on shirts, their argument is lacking at best.

    The court explicitly stated that schools “must be able to show that their action was caused by something more than a mere desire to avoid the discomfort and unpleasantness that always accompany an unpopular viewpoint.” So, even if the whole neighborhood is Bachmann-crazy, that doesn’t give the school the right to censor students.

  6. says

    Kudos to those incredible young people for taking a stand against the prejudiced and bigoted adults that are running the place.

    My GOD, the future will be bright with young folks like this leading the way.

  7. Chris45822 says

    As a citizen of Celina that is both educated and progressive and does not, in any way, support this discrimination and demand that immediate action is taken against these faculty members.

    I only hope the rest of the country does not truly believe that we all live with these antiquated beliefs and not all of us pass these hate-filled traditions down to our children. The truth is, there are plenty of people here that do believe these children did the right thing and fully support them.

    Though the power positions in our area are held by the same families that have held them for generations, we are not all a part of their philosophy. We have an amazingly community college that I whole-heartedly credit for being extremely impactful in trying to stop this hate from continuing in our community and in small town America; by way of education of tolerance.

    I just ask the nation not to look at us all (even our republicans) as contributors to the hate of our elite. The rational people in our area do not support the actions of our elite fundamentalist leaders. We just can’t elect them out or place anyone in office that could influence enlightenment due to the monetary influence of these small-minded traditionalists.

  8. Mary says

    So the Assistant Principal forced two students to change their shirts because the shirts had a pro-gay message. And the next day he was faced with TEN TIMES that number of students wearing shirts with a pro-gay message? I’d say it’s a good day for equality!

  9. TF says

    I for one find it quite uplifting that in Celina, OH(a super conservative area in Northwest Ohio that will be bright red election day}there are students who are standing up for equality and not allowing their bigoted administrators to silence them. The Celina board better act fast, or they are going to be out a lot of money. Why do these school administrators not know any better? This has been a losing battle over and over again. Then again, Celina is in Jesusland. The closest progressive city is Dayton, and its over an hour away. Kudos to the 20+ students that stood up and allowed there voices to be heard…it is truly amazing given where Celina is located!!!!

  10. Diogenes Arktos says

    @Jamal49: “It’s Ohio. It’s bigotry. What else is new?”

    Be thankful for metropolitan Cleveland. There’s usually enough Democratic votes there to overwhelm the rest of the state.

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