This high school says students’ anti-gay badges are protected by the First Amendment

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At Indio, California's Shadow Hills High School, a "handful" of students have taken to the noble practice of wearing anti-gay badges, displaying a rainbow pattern circled and crossed out. Because this is a blatant example of discriminatory targeting of a marginalized community in a public space, many expressed concern to the school's administration and asked them to stop the kids from wearing the badges.

The school, however, cannot, they say, citing the First Amendment.

"After consulting with district level personnel and our legal counsel, it was determined that these students do have the protected right to freedom of speech, just as students portraying rainbows in support of the LGBT would," administrators wrote in an email to staff, The Desert Sun reported.


It's murky whether free speech actually protects students from wearing the badges.

Though, as the Sun points out, the 1969 Supreme Court case Tinker v. Des Moines established the right to free speech in schools, it's possible overt anti-gay actions can cross over into the realm of "prohibited harassment."


"Factors courts look at to determine whether speech crosses the line into unprotected harassment include, among other things, its severity, persistence, and whether it's directed at a particular student or group of students, especially if it is a group specifically protected from discrimination," Melissa Goodman of the ACLU told the Sun.

CBS Palm Springs reports a group of students at nearby Palm Desert Middle School have begun to wore pro-LGBT stickers in response.


Michael Rosen is a reporter for Fusion based out of Oakland.