Anti-gay challenge to dress code is rejected
The U.S. Supreme Court refused Monday to suspend a high school dress code that was challenged by a student who had worn a T-shirt with anti-gay language.
Tyler Chase Harper sued the Poway Unified School District in 2004 to overturn a policy calling for schools to reduce or prevent “hate behavior,” including threats and attacks based on sexual orientation.
Harper had been pulled from class for wearing a T-shirt that read “Homosexuality is shameful” on the front and “Be ashamed. Our school has embraced what God has condemned” on the back.
His lawsuit claimed the policy violated his rights to freedom of speech and religion.
In an 8-1 ruling, the Supreme Court agreed with a federal judge that Harper lost his ability to challenge the policy when he graduated last year.
Last year, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals allowed the policy to remain in effect pending the outcome of the lawsuit and sharply criticized the student’s challenge. The appellate judges said the T-shirt was “injurious to gay and lesbian students” and “collides with the rights of other students in the most fundamental way.”
The Supreme Court ruling Monday also set aside the appellate ruling. Justice Stephen Breyer dissented.
In January, a federal judge in San Diego upheld the school’s policy in a ruling on the broad merits of the case. U.S. District Judge John Houston considered the matter on behalf of Harper’s sister, Kelsie, who is a student at the school. That case is now before the 9th Circuit.