US court says high school can enforce dress code against anti-gay T-shirt

A teenager who was barred from wearing a T-shirt with anti-gay rhetoric to class lost a bid to have his high school's dress code suspended Thursday after a federal appeals court ruled the school could restrict what students wear.

The ruling by a federal appeals court addressed only the narrow issue of whether the dress code should be unenforced pending the outcome of the student's lawsuit.

A majority of judges said, however, that Tyler Chase Harper was unlikely to prevail on claims that the school violated his First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and religion for keeping him out of class when he wore a shirt with the message "homosexuality is shameful."

Harper wore the T-shirt in 2004, one day after a group called the Gay-Straight Alliance held a "Day of Silence" to protest intolerance of gays and lesbians. The year before, the campus was disrupted by protests and conflicts between students about the Day of Silence.

After Harper refused to take off the T-shirt, he was kept out of class and assigned to do homework in a conference room for the rest of the day. He was not suspended from school.

On Thursday, the three-judge appeals court panel wrote that "the school is permitted to prohibit Harper's conduct ... if it can demonstrate that the restriction was necessary to prevent either the violation of the rights of other students or substantial disruption of school activities."

The opinion did not decide the merits of the student's lawsuit, which is still pending, reports AP.


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