Following its May 17 letter to school authorities in Savannah, Tenn., the Southern Poverty Law Center reports that it has secured the rights of students to peaceably show support for LGBT equality.
According to a June 12 SPLC press release, an attorney representing Tennessee’s Hardin County School District advised the organization in writing that ”all students within the District may peacefully display non-vulgar expressions in support of LGBT people so long as such displays do not materially and substantially interfere with the requirements of appropriate discipline in the operation of the school or otherwise collide with the rights of others.”
Sam Wolfe, an SPLC LGBT Rights Project attorney, noted in the release that SPLC reminds the school district that disruptions caused by LGBT-supportive free speech may require school officials to protect that speech.
”If some students complain or are disruptive in response to such expressions, the school has a duty to address the students causing the disruption, but not to censor protected speech,” Wolfe is quoted as saying. ”We will continue monitoring the district’s practices and take appropriate legal action if necessary.”
SPLC took action after some students at a Hardin County high school were told by an assistant principal they could not display slogans or symbols of LGBT equality, and one student was threatened with disciplinary action for wearing a T-shirt reading ”Lesbian and Proud.”
The Boy Scouts of America (BSA), which has long banned gay members, may be considering a move to allow that ban to be optional, with individual BSA units making their own determination, CNN reports.
This new wrinkle in a years-long debate on BSA policy, which has gone as far as the Supreme Court with Boy Scouts of America v. Dale in 2000 when the court upheld the BSA’s right to bar gay members, has possibly been spurred by an online Change.org petition launched by Jennifer Tyrrell.
Tyrrell, a lesbian from Bridgeport, Ohio, was removed from her position as a leader of her young son’s scouting troop due to her sexual orientation.
A portion of Tyrrell’s petition reads, ”It is time for the Boy Scouts of America to reconsider its policy of exclusivity against gay youth and leaders. Please sign this petition to call for an end of discrimination in an organization that is shaping the future.”