ACLU-NJ Defends Student's Right to Free Speech

Student Had Been Disciplined for Wearing "I &hearts Lesbians T-Shirt"

The American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey protected the free speech and equal protection rights of an 11th-grade student at Bridgeton High School who had been disciplined for wearing a T-shirt that expressed affection for lesbians.

Students at Bridgeton High School (in Cumberland County, N.J.) often wear T-shirts that say things like "I ♥ Boys in Uniform." But when Michelle Geissel wore her "I ♥ Lesbians" T-shirt, school administrators ordered her to change the T-shirt or return home. She complained about the unequal treatment, but was still required to change. Geissel then contacted the ACLU-NJ for help.

On June 2, 2006, the ACLU-NJ Sent a Letter (2.3mb PDF) to school administrators explaining that their actions were violating Geissel's rights to free expression. The letter explained that Geissel has a First Amendment right to political expression, including speech regarding sexual orientation.

The ACLU-NJ also defended Geissel's right to be free from discrimination. In its letter to the school district, the ACLU-NJ explained that because students are allowed to express affection for the opposite gender, prohibiting expressions of affection for the same gender would violate New Jersey's Law Against Discrimination.

On June 8, the ACLU-NJ was pleased to learn from the school district that Geissel would be able to wear her T-shirt without fear of discipline.

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