California high school sophomore sparks civil-rights argument with T-shirt

The ACLU has intervened at Big Bear High School because its sophomore class president was ordered to change her T-shirt expressing opposition to California’s Proposition 8.

According to the San Bernardino County Sun, “The 16-year-old sophomore, who is her class president, wore the tie-dyed T-shirt to school on Nov. 3, the day before voters approved the constitutional amendment prohibiting same-sex marriage in California. Mariah’s sixth-period teacher, Sue Reynolds, ordered her to remove the shirt during a meeting of the Associated Student Body. When Mariah protested, Reynolds sent her to the principal’s office. ‘She said I shouldn’t be wearing such divisive shirts, and my shirt draws a line down the school,’ said Mariah, who also plays on her school’s golf and softball teams and has been involved in school politics since seventh grade. Principal Michael Ghelber gave Mariah an ultimatum: Remove the shirt or remain in his office. Under protest, Mariah changed shirts and returned to class. Then, she went to the ACLU.”

Attorneys for the ACLU/SC have sent a letter to school officials demanding that they acknowledge their action was unlawful and allow sophomore Mariah to wear the shirt to school if she so chooses.

“Citing extensive federal and state law on free speech, ACLU/SC staff attorneys Peter Bibring and Lori Rifkin state in the letter that a school may not simply prohibit speech because it presents a controversial idea and could incite opponents of the speech to cause a disruption. Schools can only prohibit speech that incites disruption because it specifically calls for a disturbance, or because the manner of expression is so inflammatory that the speech provokes a disturbance.”

4 thoughts on “California high school sophomore sparks civil-rights argument with T-shirt

  • December 26, 2008 at 1:46 am
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    I’m glad she did this, I myself in school did the same. I wore Anti-Prop.8 pins instead of shirts, I was not as creative as Mariah. Haha, but I never was told my ANY teachers to take it off, only from 2 ignorant students, I was yelled at with “Yes On 8!” Some actually asked for No On 8 stickers and pins, I was glad I gave that out to them.

  • December 17, 2008 at 4:38 am
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    I can only hope more youngsters can me more like Mariah. I know I couldn’t have done that when I was in my high school years.

  • December 16, 2008 at 7:16 pm
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    I would like to see Mariah file lawsuits against the school, principal Ghelber and teacher Sue Reynolds for emotional distress and denial of her constitution right of free speech.

    The only thing that biased school officials ever respond to and ever remember in the future is what it cost them. They shouldn’t be allowed to get away with just a slap on the wrist.

  • December 16, 2008 at 8:35 pm
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    I am excited to see that this generation is outspoken about the rights of others. There is hope yet for the GLBT community.

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