HOOVER, Ala. — An Alabama high school faces a possible federal lawsuit for banning a student from wearing a t-shirt that expresses the message, “gay? fine by me.”
The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) on Wednesday sent a warning letter to Hoover High School and the city’s board of education demanding that school officials stop censoring students or face a federal lawsuit filed on behalf of 15-year-old Sara Couvillon, for violating the student’s First and Fourteenth Amendment rights.
The letter was prompted after Couvillon, a sophomore at Hoover High School, was told by school officials in August that she could not wear a T-shirt that displayed the slogan “Gay? Fine by me.”
School officials claimed they were concerned for Couvillon’s safety, but Couvillon said she has not experienced any threats of violence, nor did school officials confirm there had been threats. In fact, Couvillon had routinely worn the T-shirt during the previous school year without incident.
“There are kids at my school who really want to be themselves, but they don’t have the strength they need,” said Couvillon.
“It isn’t easy being singled out, but if I can give someone else the courage to be who they are then it’s worth it to me.”
The letter warns that if school officials don’t take meaningful action to remedy the violations, the SPLC will file a federal lawsuit on behalf of Couvillon.
“Students’ constitutional rights don’t stop when they walk through the schoolhouse gates,” said Sam Wolfe, staff attorney for SPLC. “We will do whatever it takes to protect those rights.”
School officials have been asked to confirm in writing by Sept. 12 that they have rescinded their practice of unlawfully censoring students.
Hoover, Ala., is located in suburban Birmingham.