Justice for Maverick! Student Wins Right to Wear Shirt

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May 21, 2012
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Lambda Legal client Maverick Couch can now wear this T-shirt (pictured) to school any day he chooses. The school district and principal agreed today to have a judgment entered against them.

Couch, a high school junior in Waynesville, Ohio, wore a "Jesus Is Not a Homophobe" shirt to school to mark GLSEN's National Day of Silence last year. Principal Randy Gebhardt told him to turn the T-shirt inside out. Maverick complied. Last fall, when he asked the principal for permission to wear the shirt again, Gebhardt threatened him with suspension.

Lambda Legal sent Gebhardt a letter in January outlining the legal precedent supporting Maverick’s right to wear the shirt. The school district responded that “the message communicated by the student’s T-shirt is sexual in nature and therefore indecent and inappropriate in a school setting.” Lambda Legal sued the school district on Maverick’s behalf on April 3. The next day, the school conceded that Couch could wear the shirt—but only on one day: the Day of Silence.

Couch says:

I just wanted to wear my shirt. The shirt is a statement of pride, and I hope other students like me know that they can be proud, too.

Lambda Legal Senior Staff Attorney Christopher Clark says:

We’re very happy for Maverick and all LGBT students in Ohio. If school officials had any doubt before, it’s clear now: First Amendment rights apply to all students on every day of the year, and efforts to silence LGBT youth will not go unchallenged.

Today's judgment also awarded $20,000 for damages, costs and attorneys' fees.

Read the order.

Read more about the case.

Learn more about students' rights in schools.