PJI represents a student whose identity is not being disclosed due to safety and privacy concerns. Last April, school authorities at Thurston High School in Springfield, Oregon, ordered this student to remove a shirt with the words “Straight Pride” written on it. School officials claimed that this phrase constituted harassment of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people. The student did not say anything else that could reasonably have been deemed derogatory or harassing. PJI is warning Principal Ed Mendelssohn that, if he or his staff attempt to again silence peaceful student speech, they will face legal action.
The Day of Silence is an annual student protest created by the Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network (GLSEN). Organizers urge students to remain silent throughout the school day to draw attention to LGBT issues. GLSEN anticipates that thousands of high schools throughout the United States will observe the Day of Silence this Friday. In recent years, PJI has successfully defended scores of students who have been suspended for peacefully expressing messages that offer traditional views on marriage and sexuality.
PJI Staff Attorney Matthew McReynolds represents the student at Thurston High and sent the demand letter on his behalf. McReynolds commented, “No student in America should be forced to support an ideological message that he or she disagrees with. If a school allows students to show ‘Gay Pride,’ then they must also allow students to express ‘Straight Pride.’ The Supreme Court has unequivocally held for nearly half a century that schools cannot stifle expression just because they disapprove of the viewpoint being expressed.”
PJI encourages students, parents and community members to contact PJI immediately if they become aware of free speech suppression related to the Day of Silence.