Tolerance wins out over censorship
In September, 2007, Heather Farnham, a 16-year-old student at Spencer-Van Etten High School in New York, was sent home for wearing a T-shirt that read “gay? fine by me.” The principal thought the message would cause a disruption at school by prompting anti-gay responses. Most schools are aware of the Tinker standard for taking pre-emptive action against speech, but where to draw the line is often difficult to assess.
Heather challenged the decision and in December, 2007 the school district admitted that Heather’s T-shirt was a form of protected expression. There was no hard evidence that on-campus disruption would result from the T-shirt’s message. The principal apologized to Heather and a statement was read over the school’s loudspeaker that the dress code does not prohibit students from displaying controversial or political messages.