Blog of Rights

A Florida Town Learns a Hard Lesson about the First Amendment… Or Does It?

By Chris Hampton, ACLU LGBT Project at 1:21pm

As students head back to school, things are a bit different these days at Ponce de Leon High School in the Florida panhandle. Following an ACLU lawsuit over the summer, anti-gay censorship by school officials is no longer being tolerated, and the school has a new principal.  We’ve told you about this case before, but in case you missed it, this new story from the Associated Press tells a bit more about why a young woman named Heather Gillman decided to stand up for her LGBT classmates and the First Amendment, and how her small town is still a difficult place for gay kids and their friends to grow up:

When a high school senior told her principal that students were taunting her for being a lesbian, he told her homosexuality is wrong, outed her to her parents and ordered her to stay away from children.

He suspended some of her friends who expressed their outrage by wearing gay pride T-shirts and buttons at Ponce de Leon High School, according to court records. And he asked dozens of students whether they were gay or associated with gay students.

The American Civil Liberties Union successfully sued the district on behalf of a girl who protested against Principal David Davis, and a federal judge reprimanded Davis for conducting a "witch hunt" against gays. Davis was demoted, and school employees must now go through sensitivity training.

And despite all that, many in this conservative Panhandle community still wonder what, exactly, Davis did wrong.
Here’s hoping the folks in Ponce de Leon eventually learn that the same Constitution that protects their right to their views about LGBT people guarantees the right of LGBT people to express their point of view, too.

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