Wristband Ban Violates Gay Student’s First Amendment Rights
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PEORIA, AZ – After a school principal told a gay 14-year-old student to turn his rainbow wristband inside-out or stop wearing it to school, the American Civil Liberties Union today demanded that the school district rescind its ban of the wristband. In a letter sent to Peoria Unified School District, the ACLU said that the principal’s demand violates Chris Quintanilla’s constitutional rights, pointing to a 40-year-old landmark Supreme Court decision guaranteeing students’ free speech and expression.
“When I asked my son’s principal why he wouldn’t be allowed to wear his wristband to school anymore, he said some teachers found it offensive,” said Natali Quintanilla, mother of the eighth grader whose wristband was banned. “My son is honest and happy about who he is, and I love him and support his right to be himself. There are a lot of things teachers should be more concerned about than one little wristband – like educating our children.”
Quintanilla contacted the ACLU last month after her son Chris’s principal told her he wouldn’t allow her son to wear his cloth wristband with words “Rainbows are gay” to school anymore. When her son was harassed for being gay earlier this school year, Quintanilla said the same principal told her, “If he didn’t put it out there the way he does, he wouldn’t have much of a problem.”
The wristband banned by Peoria Unified School District.
The Supreme Court has held that students have a right to free speech at school, and that includes gay students. The ACLU has won dozens of cases over the years where schools have tried to get away with illegal censorship,” said Elizabeth Gill, staff attorney for the ACLU national Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Project. “A handful of teachers supposedly working themselves into a tizzy over one little wristband is hardly an excuse for violating Chris Quintanilla’s right to free speech.”
Today’s letter refers to 1969’s U.S. Supreme Court decision in
“When schools censor students like this, they are failing one of the most important civics lessons there is,” said Dan Pochoda, Legal Director of the ACLU of Arizona. “Schools should respect the Constitution and encourage all students – lesbian, gay, bisexual, and straight – to appreciate and exercise their freedoms, rather than illegally trying to silence them.”
The ACLU has given the school ten days to respond to its letter, a copy of which is available at /files/pdfs/lgbt/schoolsyouth/az_armb_letter.pdf.
In recent years, the ACLU has used Tinker often to protect the free speech rights of LGBT students and their friends, including:
A video about the rainbow ban that led to the Gillman case can be seen at /lgbt/youth/38778res20090224.html.