The American Civil Liberties Union of Oklahoma is alleging an Oklahoma school district violated a student’s freedom of speech after he was asked to remove a shirt with a political slogan he wore to school.
The controversy started with an email, sent out to parents of Deer Creek High School students. It detailed rumors of social media posts in which students said they were going to wear black or white shirts in support or opposition, respectively, of a student who was forced to take off a Black Lives Matter shirt he’d worn to class early in the week.
The email sent by Deer Creek High School Principal Melissa Jordan read in part, "We want a student body that is inclusive and not divided...[a]ny behavior or action that has the potential to disrupt the learning environment will be addressed and may result in disciplinary action."
But, the ACLU-OK says the school over stepped, saying forcing a student to take of their clothes and threatening punishment for wearing certain colors violates basic American rights.
“Students don't check those rights at the school house door,” ACLU-OK Director of External Communications Allie Shinn said on Thursday.
Student speech is protected under a 1969 Supreme Court ruling. For advocates of civil rights, it's not just the chilling of speech but the topic.
“The tone deafness of saying that black live matter that saying black lives shouldn't be equal to white lives is really problematic for us,” said Shinn.
When asked for an interview about the allegations, News9/Newson6 got a one sentence response from Deer Creek Superintendent Ranet Tippens.
"The school district is looking into this matter and will respond when the investigation is complete," the Superintendent said.
However, the ACLU-OK says there's really nothing to investigate. The organization is also urging the district to issue a full apology to the student and use the incident to start a conversation among students and faculty.
“Political speech that is controversial must be equally protected to speech that is not controversial. That's the very spirit of the first amendment and what it means to be an American,” Shinn said.
There were reports that several students wore black shirts to class, but it’s unclear whether any were punished.