Pro-Life Student’s T-Shirt Draws Flack From Virginia High School

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Mar 18, 2004   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Pro-Life Student’s T-Shirt Draws Flack From Virginia High School

by Maria Gallagher Staff Writer
March 18, 2004

Newport News, VA ( — Officials at a Virginia high school have until Friday to say whether they will allow a student to wear a t-shirt bearing a pro-life message.

Denbigh High School in Newport News had prohibited a student from wearing a shirt carrying the slogan, "Abortion is Homicide. You will not silence my message. You will not mock my God. You will stop killing my generation. Rock for Life."

An assistant vice-principal had said the shirt violated the school’s ban on profane or obscene language.

But the Thomas More Law Center, a pubic interest law firm, disagrees. The pro-life legal center has sent a letter to school officials, saying that the student involved has a constitutional right to wear the shirt.

Thomas More has given school officials until March 19 to issue a response.

According to the firm, other students at the school have been permitted to display messages on their clothes. Even a marijuana leaf was considered acceptable.

Thomas More has asked for a written guarantee that the student can wear his pro-life T-shirt to class.

According to Law Center spokesman Brian Burch, "…The student simply wishes to continue to peacefully and passively express his firmly-held views on the important political, social, and moral subject of abortion just as other students get to express their messages."

Burch added that "by no stretch of the imagination could the student’s pro-life message be considered lewd, vulgar, profane, or obscene."

This is not the first time that a school has tried to silence a student’s pro-life speech. Last April 28, students across the nation encountered pockets of resistance as they attempted to celebrate "National Pro-Life T-Shirt Day," according to the Law Center.

In New Hampshire, school officials threatened to suspend a high school freshman who wore an "abortion is homicide shirt." The threat came despite the fact that the school had previously permitted students and teachers to wear rainbow ribbons in response to a "National Day of Silence" for homosexual rights.

At the time of the incident, Robert Muise, an associate counsel with the Law Center, said, "The political correctness police are out in full force in the public schools across this nation, seeking to suppress ideas and messages that they oppose."

In Big Rapids, Michigan, a junior honor roll student was told to change her pro-life t-shirt or go home.

After the student won the right to wear her shirt, Law Center attorney Edward L. White said, "We are pleased that our client was free to wear her pro-life shirt to school on Monday without any further interference from the school. Wearing the shirt on that day and
expressing her pro-life views was very important to this student."

As a result of the center’s intervention, the students in New Hampshire and Michigan were no longer harassed when wearing pro-life t-shirts.

Still, efforts to censor pro-life speech in schools continue.

This past January, a school official in Abington, Pennsylvania went so far as to compare the pro-life message with the Nazi swastika. The school principal had ordered a student to turn his pro-life t-shirt inside out, but later agreed the student had a First Amendment right to wear the shirt.

White said at the time, "Too often public school officials forget that the First Amendment protects student pro-life messages. We are pleased that the school has quickly corrected its mistake and has acknowledged our client’s First Amendment right to wear the pro-life t-shirt to school."

Related web sites:
Thomas More Law Center –