Ohio School Bans Another T-Shirt

Here’s another school that clearly doesn’t get the concept of the First Amendment at all. A high school principal in Waynesville, Ohio is forbidding a student to wear a t-shirt in support of the Day of Silence and against homophobia.

A Waynesville High School student sued in federal court Tuesday after school officials refused to let him wear a T-shirt with the slogan “Jesus Is Not A Homophobe.”

Maverick Couch wants to wear the shirt in his Warren County school on April 20 to show support for the Day of Silence, a national event that draws attention to the silencing of gay and lesbian students through bullying…

Couch, 17, said he tried to wear the shirt last spring for the Day of Silence and on several other occasions, but school Principal Randy Gebhardt repeatedly rejected his request.

Couch said he was told the shirt was not permitted because it was “indecent and sexual in nature.”

And the school has no idea what the law requires:

Gebhardt could not be reached Tuesday, but the school district’s superintendent, Pat Dubbs, said he believes Gebhardt considered the shirt a distraction and told Couch to turn it inside out when he wore it to school last year. He said the principal has done that on other occasions when students show up wearing potentially distracting or provocative shirts to school.

Sorry, that is not the legal standard. You can prevent kids from wearing t-shirts that are disruptive of the school’s ability to function; you can’t prevent it merely because you consider the message to be “distracting” or “provocative.”

This is very similar to the Harper v Poway case, where a student was forbidden from wearing an anti-gay t-shirt in response to the Day of Silence. Both kids have the right to express their opinion under the First Amendment. This year’s Day of Silence is on April 20.

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  • jamessweet

    See, I always think it’s extra messed-up when the message the school is trying to censor is so bland and innocuous. Sometimes schools try to pull this crap and I say, “Yeah, I totally understand what they were thinking, but unfortunately for them the First Amendment prevents them from interfering here.” Other times — like this one — I just don’t even know what is going through their heads…

  • dingojack

    Is just me or do other people picture Randy Gebhardt like: this?


  • I struggle to see how the shirt is “sexual in nature”. Since when did the word “homophobe” become sexual. To me it implies bigotry and in no way is advocating sex of any kind. This seems to me like another example of a leader (principal in this case) forcing his views down the minds of children.

  • The next shirt should read, “I dare the principal to make me wear this shirt inside-out.”

  • dingojack

    Cycle ninja – printed inside would be:

    “Jesus isn’t a homophobe. Randy Gebhardt on the other hand …”


  • eric

    The shirt says “Jesus is not a homophobe,” and has a fish with rainbow colors on it. I would love to know how the Principal thinks saying someone is not a homophobe is indecent.

    Gives me an idea for next year’s shirt though. Have it say “Jesus is” and then have a big black box with the words “Censored: any view the majority doesn’t like” in white across the box.

    [P.S. If there’s anything indecent about this story, it’s that some parents named their kid “Maverick.” But I’m an old fogie that way.]

  • Who Knows?

    Dingojack @ 2

    Now that you mention it, yes. Very much so.

  • jamessweet

    I struggle to see how the shirt is “sexual in nature”. Since when did the word “homophobe” become sexual. To me it implies bigotry and in no way is advocating sex of any kind.

    I didn’t comment on that aspect, because it’s what the student claims he was told so we don’t know if it’s true or if there was a miscommunication or whatever… but assuming that is true, I agree completely: Even if we accept a priori that homophobia is perfectly justified (because of God hating them faggots and everything, y’know), opposing homophobia is still not “sexual” per se.

    If it is, than a shirt saying “Marriage = 1 man + 1 woman” is also “sexual” in nature. I don’t think it is. I think it’s hateful and stupid, but “sexual”? Hardly…

  • eric

    @3 and @8 – according to the article, the principal thought it was indecent, not sexual. (Which is still silly, but a little less silly than saying its sexual.)

    My guess is he or his staff was trying to quote a regulation that gives them the ability to censor messages that are “indecent or sexual in nature” and just misquoted it.

  • Sarahface

    Cycleninja, #4:

    The next shirt should read, “I dare the principal to make me wear this shirt inside-out.”

    And then on the inside of that shirt, it would read, “The principal has made me wear this shirt inside-out.”

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