A seventeen-year-old senior at Sequoyah High School in Madisonville, Tennessee, was reportedly shoved, bumped in the chest and verbally harassed by the school’s principal for wearing a tee-shirt supporting students’ efforts to launch a gay-straight alliance. In response, the ACLU of Tennessee is calling on the school district to protect the students’ rights to free speech in the classroom.
According to a press release from the ACLU of Tennessee:
[Chris] Sigler wore a homemade T-shirt to school last Tuesday that said “GSA: We’ve Got Your Back.” A teacher ordered Sigler to cover up the shirt in the future. Sigler, knowing he had a right to wear the shirt, wore it again Friday, and resisted an order to remove the shirt. Sigler says that [Principal Maurice] Moser then ordered all students out of the classroom, except for Sigler’s sister Jessica, who refused to leave. According to both students, Moser then grabbed Sigler’s arm, shoved him, and chest-bumped him repeatedly while asking “Who’s the big man now?” Sigler’s mother reported that when she arrived at the school, she saw her son seated in a desk with Moser leaning over him and shouting in Sigler’s face. The Siglers filed a report about the incident that afternoon with the Monroe County Sheriff’s Department.
Students at Sequoyah have been trying to start a GSA during the school year, but have been blocked and threatened with suspension by the school’s principal.
The ACLU says that if the school doesn’t receive an satisfactory answer by October 11, they will explore legal options, including filing a complaint in federal court. Assistant Director of Schools Tim Blankenship responded:
“The Monroe County School System is aware of the alleged accusations. We have received written statements from all eyewitnesses. Our documentation clearly indicated that there are always two sides to every story. We’ll gladly provide more information as it becomes available.”