School sued over ban of `Straight Pride' sweatshirt

Minn. family says policy unconstitutional

April 05, 2001|By KNIGHT RIDDER/TRIBUNE

ST. PAUL, Minn. - A teen-ager and his parents sued the South Washington School District because the principal at his high school said he couldn't wear a sweatshirt that said "Straight Pride."

The Woodbury High School student, Elliott Chambers, wore the shirt to "express his religious and political convictions to other students, teachers and staff regarding intimate personal relationships," according to the lawsuit filed this week in U.S. District Court.

"Elliott's sweatshirt merely makes a positive statement about heterosexuality," said Stephen Crampton of the American Family Association Center for Law and Policy, the Tupelo, Miss., group that filed the lawsuit.

The lawsuit claims the school's policies are unconstitutional.

But in a statement released Tuesday, Superintendent Dan Hoke denied the district's policies were unconstitutional. School officials asked Elliott not to wear the shirt after they received complaints from students.

"The courts have ruled that schools have an obligation to eliminate disruptions to the educational process, even if it requires the reasonable regulation of student dress," Hoke said.

The lawsuit also is critical of some of the steps the school has taken to make it more welcoming for gay students, including the designation of "safe rooms" where students can talk with a teacher or counselor about personal issues.

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