As part of their celebration of a Day of Silence (a student-led national event that brings attention to anti-LGBT name-calling, bullying and harassment in schools) students at Morris Area High school donned t-shirts with the slogan "Look Beyond".  The same day a group of anti-LGBT students wore shirts that said "Loud and Proud", the dark blue shirts had an image of an American flag and a pickup truck on the front. Students who were a part of the Gay Straight Alliance efforts said that they were shouted at and harassed by the students wearing the Loud and Proud t-shirts, but school officials did nothing to stop the harassment that day.

A few days after the initial incident the school announced that both t-shirts would be banned and students could no longer wear those slogans to either school or a school related event. The school said they needed to do this to protect the students.

This is not the solution. The t-shirts themselves are not the problem, the harassing of students who were a part of the Day of Silence is the problem.

Schools should be a safe space for all students to attend. Morris Area High School has a responsibility to address any bullying that occurred regardless of the clothing worn by the perpetrators. Instead they just chose to limit the free expression of both sides by outright banning the shirts. This won’t get rid of bullying.

Instead of banning the slogans and t-shirts the school should be focused on making the school a safe and welcoming environment for its LGBT students.  This is not the first time the ACLU has heard that Morris High School is an unwelcoming climate for LGBT youth. The school should use this opportunity to talk to its students about bullying and harassment and figure out steps it can take to make it safer.

The ACLU of Minnesota sent a letter to the school district telling the school that they should lift the ban on the t-shirts and instead focus on the heart of the problem.

It’s ironic that in trying to raise awareness about the silencing effect of anti-LGBT harassment and intimidation, the Morris school district is using incidents of anti-LGBT harassment to silence their voices and ban them from using the positive and inclusive slogan of “Look and Beyond”.

LGBT youth are twice as likely to be bullied or harassed as their straight peers. Schools should be tackling this problem head on to try and change the tides and make schools more welcoming and safe.

There are ways to protect student’s free speech rights and their right to attend school without fear of bullying and harassment. The ACLU will keep fighting for both those rights. 

A few days after the initial incident the school announced that both t-shirts would be banned and students could no longer wear those slogans to either school or a school related event. The school said they needed to do this to protect the students.

This is not the solution. The t-shirts themselves are not the problem, the harassing of students who were a part of the Day of Silence is the problem.

Schools should be a safe space for all students to attend. Morris Area High School has a responsibility to address any bullying that occurred regardless of the clothing worn by the perpetrators. Instead they just chose to limit the free expression of both sides by outright banning the shirts. This won’t get rid of bullying.

Instead of banning the slogans and t-shirts the school should be focused on making the school a safe and welcoming environment for its LGBT students.  This is not the first time the ACLU has heard that Morris High School is an unwelcoming climate for LGBT youth. The school should use this opportunity to talk to its students about bullying and harassment and figure out steps it can take to make it safer.

The ACLU of Minnesota sent a letter to the school district telling the school that they should lift the ban on the t-shirts and instead focus on the heart of the problem.

It’s ironic that in trying to raise awareness about the silencing effect of anti-LGBT harassment and intimidation, the Morris school district is using incidents of anti-LGBT harassment to silence their voices and ban them from using the positive and inclusive slogan of “Look and Beyond”.

LGBT youth are twice as likely to be bullied or harassed as their straight peers. Schools should be tackling this problem head on to try and change the tides and make schools more welcoming and safe.

There are ways to protect student’s free speech rights and their right to attend school without fear of bullying and harassment. The ACLU will keep fighting for both those rights. 

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