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Student sues to wear anti-homophobia shirt

April 4, 2012 at 7:47 PM

WAYNESVILLE, Ohio, April 4 (UPI) -- An Ohio teen has filed a lawsuit saying his high school principal violated his First Amendment rights by preventing him from wearing an anti-homophobia T-shirt.

Maverick Couch, 16, said in the federal lawsuit filed Tuesday Waynesville High School Principal Randy Gebhardt prevented him from wearing a T-shirt that said "Jesus Is Not A Homophobe," the Dayton Daily News reported Wednesday.

Gebhardt told Couch to turn the shirt inside out April 15, 2011, and to remove it completely a week later, the lawsuit said. Couch said Gebhardt threatened to suspend him if he wore the garment a third time.

In January Lambda Legal, a non-profit law firm advocating lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights, sent a letter to Gebhardt urging the school district to "take appropriate steps so that no further action will be necessary to ensure that students in your school freely exercise their First Amendment right of expression."

William Deters, the school district's lawyer, responded Feb. 24 saying Gebhardt "was well within the bounds of his authority" and the "T-shirt was sexual in nature and therefore indecent and inappropriate in a school setting."

The lawsuit seeks an award of "nominal damages" to cover court costs in addition to a court order allowing Couch to wear the shirt, declaring the school district violated his rights, the newspaper said.

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