Connecticut Students Sent Home for T-Shirt Protest

Gay rights took a step forward in Hartford yesterday, but free speech suffered a setback in South Windsor last week when four students were sent home from South Windsor High School for wearing T-shirts protesting Connecticut's civil unions legislation. The Manchester-area Journal Inquirer reports:
By Candace Taylor, Journal Inquirer April 16, 2005

SOUTH WINDSOR -- Four high school students were sent home Friday after they wore T-shirts bearing anti-homosexual slogans to school, causing a series of disturbances as other students became "emotionally distraught," students and school officials said.

The boys, who wore white T-shirts on which they had written, "Adam and Eve, Not Adam and Steve," say their constitutional right to free speech has been violated.

"We were just voicing our opinions," said Steven Vendetta, who made the T-shirts with his friends, Kyle Shinfield, David Grimaldi, and another student who asked not to be identified. "We didn't tell other people to think what we're thinking. We just told them what we think."

But other students say they felt threatened by the shirts, which also quoted Bible verses pertaining to homosexuality.

"I didn't feel safe at this school today," said Diana Rosen, who is co-president of the school's Gay-Straight Alliance. ...

Now this is a perfect example of "political correctness" run amok - and ultimately hurting the struggle for gay rights. The article indicates that the offending T-shirts bore the slogan "Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve" and some "Bible verses pertaining to homosexuality." Nobody was calling anybody "f*ggot", nobody was threatening anybody. And yet, Diana Rosen "didn't feel safe", and that was enough.
Vendetta said the impetus for the T-shirts came earlier in the week, when students at the high school took part in the annual Day of Silence, a project orchestrated by the national Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network. On the Day of Silence, students across the country do not speak, as a reminder of the discrimination and harassment experienced by homosexuals.

Students at the high school also wore signs showing their support for legislation that would recognize civil unions for same-sex couples in Connecticut, Vendetta said.

Vendetta and his friends, who oppose civil unions, wanted to make their feelings known.

"We felt if they could voice their opinions for it, we could voice our opinion against it," he said.

But he was wrong. SWHS principal John Dilorio, who had initially approved the students' protest, apparently backed down by the afternoon.
Eventually, DiIorio called the boys into the office and told them that other students were becoming "emotionally distraught," Shinfield said. He then asked the boys to remove the shirts. They refused and were sent home.

Who were these "emotionally distraught" students? Apparently Miss Rosen herself:
Rosen said that when she first saw the shirts, she "almost didn't believe it." She became very upset, crying and spending most of the day in administrators' and guidance counselor's offices. She also got into several arguments, she said.

Well, you poor little dear. I hope you weren't too terribly traumatized by the incident. Do yourself a favor: Never, EVER pick up a Bible, read the editorial pages of a newspaper, or log on to the internet. Don't go out and get a job, either - you might have to work with people who disagree with you. In fact, just to be on the safe side, don't leave your house.

Contrast her reaction with Vendetta's:
"I walked down the hall, and people were either cheering me on, yelling at me, or just sneering," he said. "It was the most intense experience."

Here is someone who is not afraid of being challenged. I wish more gay-rights advocates had this attitude.

Read the full JI article at the link.

As it happens, I attended South Windsor High School from 1978 to 1981. I think it's fair to say things were a little different back then. We didn't have a "Gay-Straight Alliance". We didn't have teachers, counselors, and administrators falling all over themselves to make sure we "felt safe". We didn't have a "Day of Silence", either - if you were gay, or if you were just different, your day of silence was every f*ing day. So I'm afraid I can work up precious little sympathy for Diana Rosen and her self-created victimhood.

I'm pleased to see that schools like my old high school are finally taking anti-gay harrassment seriously, but I'm deeply disappointed that they have chosen to do so at the expense of free speech. The students who wore the shirts sparked controversy and debate; and in the end, it was not they, but the administration of South Windsor High School, that hurt the cause of gay equality.