School breaches student’s rights

Being gay doesn’t mean having to say you’re sorry. But apparently the faculty and administration of Jacksonville Junior High School in Little Rock, Ark., never got that memo.

Thomas McLaughlin, a ninth grader, was forced to read the Bible, listen to anti-gay preaching and censor his speech, all for the crime of mentioning that he was gay during school hours. According to the school district, McLaughlin’s “discussions outside of class time disrupted the learning process,” and it was appropriate to discipline him.

McLaughlin simply talked about his sexuality outside the classroom. That’s allowed. And, thankfully, the American Civil Liberties Union thinks so, too.

They filed a lawsuit on McLaughlin’s behalf, claiming that the school district violated his rights by refusing to let him talk to his classmates about being gay. U.S. District Judge G. Thomas Eisele, in talks with ACLU attorneys, said that under the First Amendment, schools cannot “silence or restrict students’ speech unless it is disruptive.”

According to the ACLU, the school attorney agreed that the school could not restrict McLaughlin’s speech during non-instructional time.

Not only did the school district attempt to restrict his speech by means of religious punishment and lectures, school officials actually called McLaughlin’s mother last year to let her know that her son was gay. She was understanding, but the school officials continued to harass her son.

In a similar instance, Jerryn Johnston, an openly gay student at Gilbert High School in Iowa, reported vandalism to his car on school property. The school board decided the case was not compelling enough to include sexual orientation in its non-discrimination policy.

Education and understanding could prevent cases like McLaughlin’s and Johnston’s from ever happening again.

University Wire — Iowa State U.

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