Couch v. Wayne Local School District

Find Your State

Know the laws in your state that protect LGBT people and people living with HIV.
Status: Closed
Outcome:
Victory
Court:
U.S. District Court, Southern District of Ohio, Western Divisio
Issues: Teens & Young Adults, Youth and Schools

Maverick Couch is a high school junior threatened with suspension if he wore a T-shirt bearing the message “Jesus Is Not a Homophobe.”

Read more

In April 2011, Maverick Couch, a high school student in Waynesville, Ohio, wore a T-shirt with a rainbow Ichthys, or “sign of the fish,” and a slogan that says “Jesus Is Not a Homophobe” in observation of GLSEN's National Day of Silence. The school principal, Mr. Randy Gebhardt, called Maverick into his office and instructed him to turn the T-shirt inside out; Maverick complied. Maverick went home and conducted some research and concluded he should have the right to wear the T-shirt, and wore it again the following day. He was again summoned to the principal’s office, his mother was called into the school, and was told to remove the T-shirt or face suspension; Maverick again complied. Over the summer, Maverick further researched his First Amendment rights, and when school resumed in the fall of 2011, he approached the school principal seeking permission to wear the T-shirt. Mr. Gebhardt restated that he would be suspended if he wore the shirt.

In January 2012, Lambda Legal sent a letter to Mr. Gebhardt outlining the legal precedent supporting Maverick’s right to wear the shirt, to which the school district issued the response, “…the message communicated by the student’s T-shirt is sexual in nature and therefore indecent and inappropriate in a school setting.” On April 3, 2012, Lambda Legal filed suit against the Wayne Local School District on Maverick’s behalf, arguing that the Waynesville School District violated the First Amendment and well-settled legal precedent supporting students’ free speech.