Lawsuit: student says she was suspended for being quiet, wearing pro-gay shirt

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A student from a small Florida town has sued her high school principal, the dean of students and the local school board in federal court because, she claims, she was suspended last year for participating in a popular national “Day of Silence” — a protest against anti-gay bullying.

The New Times Broward-Palm Beach, an alternative weekly newspaper, first broke the story.

The student, 15-year-old Amber Hatch, claims she sought permission — via a letter — to participate.

Shannon Fusco, the principal of DeSoto County High School, turned down the request.

“Peaceful protests are against district policy,” Fusco allegedly explained.

Fusco also apparently expressed concern that Hatch’s participation in the event could cause disruptions in class.

Hatch reportedly appealed the decision three times, unconvincingly.

The lawsuit claims that on April 19, the day before the “Day of Silence,” Fusco pulled Hatch out of class. As the New Times reports, Fusco them advised the student that if she showed up at school the next day “and was quiet, there would be disciplinary consequences.”

Fusco also allegedly called Hatch’s parents and suggested that they keep the girl home from school on April 20 to “avoid problems” and “consequences.”

On April 20, Hatch came to DeSoto County High wearing a shirt emblazoned with the words: “DOS April 20, 2012: Shhhhh.”

It’s not clear if Hatch said anything to anyone, or if she created any classroom distractions with her tranquil, t-shirt-festooned presence.

After third period, the New Times says, the dean of students summoned Hatch and told her she could choose “in-school suspension or out-of-school suspension.”

Also, for the rest of the day, Hatch had to sit isolated from other students.

Hatch’s politically-related t-shirt is certainly not the first to cause angst among officials at American schools.

School officials in Wolcott, Connecticut recently reversed a decision to prohibit a high school student from wearing a t-shirt with a bold, red “universal no” circle and slash mark symbol superimposed over a multi-colored rainbow.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut represented the student, Seth Groody, and had warned that it was ready to sue the school district to protect his First Amendment rights.

Similarly, in a bit of anti-gun hysteria, an eighth-grade teacher threatened a 14-year-old boy with suspension if he did not remove his t-shirt supporting the United States Marines.

The incident occurred in a reading class at Genoa-Kingston Middle School in a small town in northeast Illinois. The teacher, Karen Deverell, believed the interlocking rifles emblazoned across Michael McIntyre’s shirt violated the school’s dress code.

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