by Steven Ertelt
April 29, 2005
Des Moines, IA (LifeNews.com) — More students are coming forward saying they were denied the right to free expression when their schools prohibited them from wearing pro-life t-shirts with the message "Abortion Kills Kids." The shirts were part of a national pro-life shirt day sponsored by youth pro-life organization Rock for Life.
In Des Moines, Iowa, two Roosevelt High School students say their First Amendment rights were violated when school officials told them to remove the shirts. Sisters Brittany and Tamera Chandler said they were threatened with suspension if they wore the shirts.
In an interview with the Des Moines Register, Roosevelt Principal Anita Micich denied that was the case. She claims she wanted the Chandlers to remove the shirts to protect them from students who disagreed with the pro-life message they conveyed.
"I was worried that students who were expressing themselves might become targets, or that it might become so disruptive we couldn’t conduct classes," Micich said. "It was headed down that path."
Tamera Chandler agreed to wear a sweatshirt over her shirt, but felt her rights had been violated.
"I was upset because they violated my rights, but I didn’t want any trouble because graduation’s right around the corner," she told the Register.
But, when Brittany wouldn’t change her shirt, school officials told her and her father that Tamera could be suspended, which would delay her graduation this spring.
Another student who wore the same shirt disputed the claim that other students were causing them problems.
"I just wore it like any other shirt, and no one said anything bad," she told the Des Moines newspaper.
The Chandlers’ parents are considering filing a lawsuit against the school and have contacted the Iowa Liberty and Justice Center, a pro-life and religious liberties law firm.
"How the school district addresses the issue, whether cavalierly or genuinely, will affect the future handling of the case," staff attorney Chuck Hurley said of the situation.
Brittany Chandler told the Des Moines newspaper she wants an apology.
"There was never an argument in class," she said. "A lot of people said, ‘We’re glad you’re standing up for your beliefs.’ I want an apology and for my sister to graduate and to wear the shirt again, that’s all."
The school has already started to relent and Micich said the girls can wear the shirts and students who dissent will be told to leave them alone.
Meanwhile, in Tennessee, a Knox County elementary school principal told a 5th grader that she was prohibited from wearing the t-shirt.
School principal Emily Lenn told Debbie Williams told her that her daughter’s shirt was inappropriate because young kids attended the school and because it was too graphic. The shirt shows a picture of an unborn child.
Lenn said the graphic nature of the shirt and not its pro-life message was the problem. He said she could wear a shirt to school if it had a less intense message.