The ACLU is getting involved after a Texas superintendent threatened parents with legal action for using a high school’s logo in a graphic supporting LGBTQ students.
The graphic featuring a rainbow flag behind the Wimberley High School logo (above) was created in advance of the town’s first LGBTQ Pride parade in September. But controversy erupted when a supportive school board member donned a T-shirt emblazoned with the graphic in a Facebook post.
Last month, Superintendent Dwain York sent a letter to parents saying they must remove the graphic from social media and print by Jan. 6, or they’ll receive a cease-and-desist letter from the district’s attorney. In his letter, York alleged the parents are infringing upon the district’s copyright of the logo, which he called “a serious concern.”
But the ACLU disagrees, saying in a letter to York this week that the district is violating the parents’ First Amendment rights by targeting them based on the content of their speech. According to the ACLU, local businesses and others have been using versions of the Wimberley High School logo for years without incident, including one company that sells T-shirts featuring a Christian cross. The ACLU says the pro-LGBTQ graphic is protected under the Fair Use Doctrine, which allows the use of copyrighted material in political statements.
“In order to avoid significant legal liability at the detriment of Wimberley taxpayers, students and parents, the school district should immediately cease taking adverse action against anyone who has posted the altered logo and send a retraction to everyone who received the letter from Superintendent (Dwain) York,” ACLU attorney Brian Klosterboer wrote to the district.
In response to the ACLU letter, York on Wednesday appeared to walk back his threat, according to CBS Austin.
“As we begin this new year, Wimberley ISD wants to bring this community together, and if any actions that we have taken contributed to any disharmony, all of us at WISD take to heart our leadership role in bringing about unity,” York said in a statement.
One parent of an LGBTQ student, Brian Burke, told CBS Austin he has no plans to take down the graphic from his social media.
“We will not be bullied,” Burke said. “You bring those thoughts into our school district, and you demonize the gay community, and you vilify and you marginalize, [and] that’s not going to roll in Wimberley Independent School District. It’s wrong.”
Back in November, amid the controversy over the graphic, the Wimberley school board voted down a proposal to add LGBTQ students to the district’s nondiscrimination policy, by a margin of 4-3.
Wimberley, with a population of about 2,600, is situated approximately 40 miles southwest of Austin.