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ACLU defends Poway student who protested Day of Silence
American Civil Liberties Union of San Diego & Imperial Counties
In a significant free speech case that has sparked national attention, the American Civil Liberties Union of San Diego & Imperial Counties has filed an amicus brief in U.S. District Court in Harper v. Poway Unified School District. Our brief argues that the anti-gay t-shirt worn by Tyler Chase Harper did not amount to harassment that the school was permitted to punish.
In 2004, students at Poway High School organized a “Day of Silence,” a national youth-run effort using silence to protest the actual silencing of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people due to harassment, bias, and abuse in schools. On the Day of Silence and the following day, Harper wore a t-shirt that said, "Be Ashamed, Our School Embraced What God Has Condemned" on the front and "Homosexuality Is Shameful 'Romans 1:27' " on the back. There was no evidence of any disturbance on the first day, and on the second day, a teacher observed “several students off-task talking about the shirt.” It was also alleged that there may have been a “tense verbal conversation” about it, but Harper characterized it and other conversations as “peaceful discussions wherein differing viewpoints were communicated.”
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