High School Recants, Virginia Teen Can Wear Pro-Life T-Shirt
by Steven Ertelt
March 19, 2004
Newport News, VA (LifeNews.com) — A Virginia high school has recanted in the face of a lawsuit filed by a pro-life firm that says it was wrong to prohibit a student from wearing his pro-life t-shirt. An assistant principal had told Denbigh High School student Daniel Goergen last month that he had to remove the sweatshirt or turn it inside out.
That prompted attorneys at the Michigan-based Thomas More Law Center to fire off a letter defending Goergen.
"I respected (her) opinion and did what she said because she’s an administrator," Goergen told the Daily Press newspaper. "Then I got a lawyer to explain to her the right for me to wear it."
He said many students at the school have expressed their support.
In response to the Thomas More letter, Newport News Chief Deputy Attorney Leonard Wallin sent a letter informing Goergen’s lawyers that he could wear the sweatshirt to school.
Wallin said that Goergen was within his rights to wear the shirt, but said school officials originally felt the shirt was disruptive.
"The fundamental question is whether or not wearing some garment with a message on it is going to create a disturbance, an immediate disturbance," Wallin told the Daily Press. "If there isn’t a reasonable belief that it’s going to create a disturbance (school officials) can’t ban the message even if they turn out to be wrong after the fact."
The pro-life law firm asked the school to respond by today or it said it would file lawsuit in federal court to protect Goergen’s rights.
Martin Goergen, Daniel’s father, told the Daily Press that he was glad the school responded in time. He said his son had worn the shirt for two years without incident.
An assistant vice-principal had said the shirt violated the school’s ban on profane or obscene language.
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." In Big Rapids, Michigan, a junior honor roll student was told to change her pro-life t-shirt or go home.
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.
Related web sites:
Thomas More Law Center – https://www.thomasmore.org