Student Gets Detention for Pro-Life Shirt After Losing Censorship Fight

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Apr 16, 2004   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Student Gets Detention for Pro-Life Shirt After Losing Censorship Fight

by Steven Ertelt Editor
April 16, 2004

Fort Myers, FL ( — A pro-life junior high school student’s situation has gone from bad to worse. Michelle Heinkel, who lost a lawsuit against her school on Wednesday in an attempt to distribute pro-life literature, found herself with detention on Friday for wearing a pro-life t-shirt.

Heinkel lost a lawsuit against Cypress Lake Middle School in her bid to disseminate information about abortion because the request to distribute the materials was made not by her, but on her behalf by a Florida pro-life group.

Now, according to the News-Press newspaper, Heinkel is in trouble with the school for wearing a pro-life t-shirt that shows a graveyard and the words "46 Million Abortions Since 1973."

However, Heinkel, and a friend who wore a similar shirt, won’t serve the detention time school officials say.

But Michelle’s mother Debra and their attorney Joel Oster, of Liberty Counsel, a pro-life law firm, accuse the school of "setting up" Michelle.

"On Monday, an attorney for the board said there was no problem with the T-shirts," Oster told the News-Press. "Today, they ordered two students to detention on Monday for wearing the T-shirts."

"We give voice to those who cannot speak," the shirts say. "We stand for those who never could. We remember one-third of our generation lost."

School officials sent letters to teachers after Monday’s hearing in the lawsuit saying that pro-life t-shirts are allowed so long as they conform to the school district’s dress code policy.

But the dress code says only shirts with "small emblems" are allowed, the Fort Myers paper reported.

"So they are just setting up these kids," Oster said.

Keith Martin, an attorney for the school, would not comment on the matter saying it was an internal school discipline issue.

Meanwhile, Oster filed a second request Friday morning with U.S. District Judge John E. Steele for Michelle to be able to distribute the literature today. The request also included Nate Corday of Riverdale High School who wants to distribute pro-life brochures too.

Judge Steele, who ruled Wednesday that the school could prohibit her from distributing the information, turned back the request again. He said it was "untimely" because Michelle wanted to distribute the information today.

Oster said Michelle would continue fighting.

Related web sites:
Liberty Counsel –