Skip to comments.School Bans Pro-Life T-Shirt - Seventh Grader Sues
Posted on 07/08/2009 8:44:29 PM PDT by Tabi Katz
The mother of a California seventh-grader forced to remove her pro-life T-shirt is suing school administrators, claiming that her daughter's First Amendment rights were violated.
Anna Amador says the principal at McSwain Elementary School, a K-8 school in Merced, Calif. ordered her daughter to take off the T-shirt she wore to school on "National Pro-Life T-Shirt Day" in April 2008. The shirt displays two graphic photos of a fetus in the womb with the word "growing" under the images. A third box is black, and features the word "gone."
The complaint alleges that school principal Terrie Rohrer, assistant principal C.W. Smith and office clerk Martha Hernandez mistreated the child, who was allegedly ordered to throw away her breakfast, dragged from the cafeteria, berated and forced to take off her shirt. Amador says he daughter was publicly humiliated in front of her classmates, and that none of the child's fellow students had complained about the shirt.
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"Upon arriving at the main office, Defendant Hernandez, intentionally and without Plaintiff's consent, grabbed Plaintiff's arm and forcibly escorted her toward Smith's office, at all times maintaining a vice-like grip on Plaintiff's arm. Hernandez only released Plaintiff's arm after physically locating her in front of Smith and Defendant Rohrer...," reads the complaint. The document also states that the student was told never to wear the shirt to school again, and that the garment was not returned to her until the end of the school day.
Anthony N. DeMaria, attorney for the McSwain Union Elementary School District, says that the school has a strong defense, and it disputes several of Amador's allegations. In fact, the district sought to have the complaint thrown out, but a U.S. Eastern District Court judge ruled last month that all but one of Amador's claims could go forward.
However, district officials do not dispute that they ordered Amador's daughter to remove her shirt. The district asserts that the T-shirt violated the school's dress code, which forbids any clothing advertising "inappropriate subject matter" like tobacco, drug or alcohol use, sexual promiscuity, profanity or vulgarity. Amador says the school applies the dress code subjectively, and lawyers for the girl point out that the images on the pro-life shirt can be found in the school's own science textbooks.
Because the school houses grades K-8, Amador may not have as strong a case as she hopes. Precedents have been set in similar cases, where certain kinds of speech have been ruled as detrimental to young kids. However, William Becker, Amador's lawyer, asserts that the shirt did not sport inappropriate messages.
"The message of the T-shirt is that life is sacred," says Becker, a First Amendment attorney. "One would be very hard pressed to find anything wrong with that particular idea, except that some people do object to the political message."
As a journalist, I don't think speech of any kind -- no matter how distasteful -- should be censored. What if students who protested the Vietnam War had been censored? In fact, the Supreme Court ruled that students could not be stopped from wearing black arm bands to signal their dissent during that era. If what Amador alleges is true, the school district should, indeed, be held liable. Some might not like the shirt's political message, but squashing her right to speak -- or wear -- her opinion is a slippery slope, indeed.
That said, is it right for kids that age to act as billboards for causes they may or may not understand? It's true that children grow up faster these days, but I'm not all that comfortable with seventh-graders sporting messages like those worn by Amador's daughter when they don't really have the maturity to grasp all the nuances of such a polarizing issue.
Should kids wear politically charged T-shirts to school, and do officials have the right to ask them to remove them? Or is this the modern version of book-burning?
Graphic how, exactly?
You’re the man. Thanks for posting the picture.
I believe their have been mixed rulings regarding the issue of free speech in a public school and shirts. One ruling was that a kid could not wear a shirt that advocated drug use while more political statements are protected.
So, if a kid can wear a pro-life tee shirt some other kid can wear a pro abortion tee-shirt.
And if a kid can wear a tee shirt saying that OBama is not a natural born citizen some other kid can wear a tee-shirt saying something nasty about Sarah Palin.
I agree with you. All or nothing...And when it comes to school clothing, it should be NOTHING...Every school should have uniforms, as far as I’m concerned.
There was nothing graphic about it.
What probably upset the Marxists running the school was that the photo were, indeed, so sweetly **beautiful**.
but taxpayer funded schools
I call them legalized concentration camps!
Or... prisons for children who have committed no crime.
I agree - it’s not graphic. The photos would be fine in a school science book, even in the early grades.
Wow! Do you want the children to goose-step, too?
Government schools should be abolished. Government schools are a First Amendment and freedom of conscience abomination!
Let us stay on track. Push the lawsuit to the limits and have the proper persons fired. It’s what the liberals would do....
I agree. Use law suits and publicity to attack and destroy **personally** the careers of those responsible, as well as the district generally.
But...We must not lose track of the ultimate goal. The government legalized concentration camps must be shut down (oops! “schools”). Every one of them! Marxism is our nation’s most serious threat. Schools are the Marxists’ most powerful weapon.
Government schools were a socialist scheme from the beginning to turn the citizens into compliant citizens of the state. It has taken a few generations but has succeeded admirably..and...Remember. Socialism can not be reformed.
School uniforms are much cheaper than other clothing.
My kids wore uniforms for years. It was polo shirts from Mervyn’s or Target for about $10 each, and a navy or khaki pants or shorts for about $15. I think I spent maybe $100 per kid for the entire year on clothing.
The schools also had a uniform closet where you could get used clothing for free.
My kids were in private and public with uniforms in each.
There are plenty of areas where parents and kids are doing a fantastic job of “afterschooling”. The school take credit for all the hard work done in the home.
Yes, I know it is anecdotal, but every academically successful child I have met in my career had a parent ( and the child, himself) who was doing **everything** I and my children did as a homeschoolers. **Everything**!
I conclude that it is the parents and the kids who are doing 99.99% of the work at home. The institutional school is merely sending home a curriculum for the parents and child to follow.
Government schools were a socialistic scheme from the beginning. It is impossible to “tweak” socialism!
As this abortion shirt shows, government schools and the First Amendment are utterly incompatible. It is impossible to “tweak” that either.
Government schools are legalized concentration camps for children who have committed no crime.
Why not just put kids in used prison uniforms?
EXPENSIVE TO HAVE A COUPLE OF UNIFORMS? Have you been shopping for teens lately??? I disagree with you on everything you say. Freedom. How many “government” jobs require uniforms. There is no such thing as first amendment when it comes to uniforms. Ridiculous. Every place they’ve tried uniforms has helped so many things..violence, cliques, etc.
Which do you prefer fascism or communism?
“Government schools were a socialist scheme from the beginning to turn the citizens into compliant citizens of the state.”
It was inevitable, whether or not there was a conscious plot.
She's trying the early M.J. look. What's next? The one glove?
Now, would the schools be so quick to go after the students wearing the pro-abortion or anti-Palin shirts?
I’m with you. If you want to send your kid to a school that requires uniforms, go for it. But don’t restrict the free speech of everyone else’s kids while further burdening taxpayers with uniforms in EVERY school.
Put them all in uniforms.
Or let them wear what ever political statement they wish.
Why use prison garb?
What is a government school?
Definition: Legalized concentration camp for children who have committed no crime.
Something told me that the use of “graphic” was intentionally deceptive.
That’s why it’s nice to have a clothes closet with free uniforms. No one ever had to pay for uniforms if they didn’t want to at any of the schools we went to.
I would say most people don’t already have their clothes for school.
Uniforms are really easy on parents too because kids just know what they are supposed to wear.
I also like strict dress codes. My daughters are going to a new private school this year, and they don’t have uniforms, just a very strict dress code. They can wear jeans or capris or dresses/skirts to just above the knee. For shirts, they have to wear plain or patterned (stripes, florals, polka dots, plaid) shirts. They can’t wear any shirts with graphics, no spaghetti straps.
Basically, my girls are going to be wearing jeans/capris and a polo shirt. I found a store with lots of different colored polo shirts for $7, and I bought a ton of them.
I went to public school also. I grew up in Texas,and I think there are still plenty of decent public schools in Texas. I didn’t have uniforms growing up, but we all dressed fairly conservatively.
I now live in California, and the public schools have lots of problems. Some of the problems are self-inflicted, and some of them are not. The kids are constantly pushing the envelope out here, and the uniforms are an easy way to enforce dress code. The kids even push the envelope with that. They still try to sag the uniform pants, girls try to wear really short skirts, etc.