Essay:T-Shirt Wars in School

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T-Shirt Wars in School

As homosexual groups become more aggressive in promoting their agenda in schools through T-shirts and days of silence, some students are fighting back with T-shirts of their own. Last year, in the sprawling city of Naperville outside Chicago, Heidi Zamecnik was sent to the school dean for daring to wear a shirt that said “Be Happy, Not Gay” in response to pro-gay T-shirts worn the previous day.

The Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network had promoted a “Day of Silence” at Neuqua Valley High School, and school officials allowed students to wear shirts carrying pro-homosexual messages. But when Zamecnik expressed a different viewpoint with her T-shirt the following day, the dean demanded that she remove the shirt or be sent home for the day.

Her mother then negotiated a compromise with the dean to change the shirt to say “Be Happy, Be Straight.” But reportedly the dean did not stick to his agreement, and arranged for a female counselor to cross off everything except “Be Happy.”

The Alliance Defense Fund, which handles many cases for students nationwide, sued the school on behalf of the Zamecnik family and another student who also sought to wear a “Be Happy, Not Gay” T-shirt the following year. They moved for a preliminary injunction to allow them to wear the shirts. The federal district court denied their motion, but entered an order allowing “Be Happy, Be Straight” T-shirts. Zamecnik v. Indian Praire School Dist. ADF has appealed the ruling, arguing for the original phrase.

Naperville is not alone in this struggle. In April, four students were suspended at Rio Linda High School in California for wearing pro-heterosexual T-shirts. The students were protesting how the school grants homosexuals rights to express themselves but does not give the same rights to heterosexuals.

Christina Ivantuk, a protesting student, commented how gay advocates were writing “gay pride” in rainbow colors on their bodies. One of the suspended students, Ilya Beknizrov, noted that “There’s a lot of homosexuals out here, and it is kind of disturbing, you know, and we are protesting about it.” The school principal defended the suspensions by claiming students were defying authority.

In March, the U.S. Supreme Court vacated a decision written by the activist Judge Stephen Reinhardt against a Christian student’s protest of homosexual activism in his school. There the student Tyler Harper wore a T-shirt that said, "BE ASHAMED, OUR SCHOOL EMBRACED WHAT GOD HAS CONDEMNED" handwritten on the front, and "HOMOSEXUALITY IS SHAMEFUL" handwritten on the back.

Though Judge Reinhardt affirmed the school’s prohibition of that shirt, there was a strong dissent by Judge Alex Kozinski. Harper v. Poway Unified Sch. Dist., 445 F.3d 1166 (9th Cir. 2006). He observed the absurdity of pretending to advance tolerance with a “demonstrated intolerance for a viewpoint that was not consistent with their own.” Quoting another precedent, Kozinski declared that such a position is “hardly worthy of serious comment.”